According to two new studies, new prostate cancer screening guidelines have led to fewer men getting tested for the disease. As a result, fewer early-stage cases are being detected in New Mexico and nationwide.

In 2012, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force decided that the prostate-specific antigen test was leading to unnecessary treatments, including surgery and radiation, for men who had slow-growing prostate cancer. The task force, which is made up of an independent panel of experts, recommended that the test only be given to those thought to be at high risk for the disease, such as men with a family history of cancer and African-American men.

According to a pair of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that recommendation has led to a decline in screenings and early-stage detection. One study found that PSA screenings for men age 50 and older declined by 18 percent between 2010 and 2013. Meanwhile, the number of early-stage cancer diagnoses among this age group dropped from 489 per 100,000 in 2011 to 416 per 100,000 in 2012. Another study found a similar decline in screenings for men between the ages of 60 and 64.

Medical experts say the screening declines could be positive if it means doctors are discussing the pros and cons of testing with their patients and making an informed decision together. However, if doctors are simply choosing not to screen as many patients due to the new guidelines, it could mean that some men who need the test are not being given the option and thus could conceivably be harmed from a resulting delayed treatment.

A person who has been the victim of a delayed diagnosis may want to discuss the situation with an attorney. in some cases, the delay could be the result of a failure by the health care practitioner to exhibit the requisite standard of care, possibly resulting in an award of damages in a subsequent medical malpractice lawsuit.