For the general population of men, there is a one in seven chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, so it’s important to be aware of your options.
Screening: Safe and Painless Way to Detect Prostate Cancer
A simple blood test called a prostate specific antigen test (PSA) and a digital rectal exam (DRE) are currently the best screening methods available for prostate cancer. Prostate cancer screening is safe and painless and can detect prostate cancer early, when it is most treatable.
However, prostate cancer screening is not for everyone. You should know:
- Some prostate cancers are slow-growing and there is a chance that slow-growing disease may never affect a man’s health.
- Prostate cancer screening detects the presence of cancer; it will not show if a cancer is slow-growing or aggressive. Only a qualified physician can make that determination.
- The test result could be inaccurate or unclear, leading to unnecessary anxiety, another test, or a biopsy or treatment you don’t need. Talk to your doctor about benefits and risks before you decide to be screened.
- Treatment can be life-saving. However, it may cause temporary or long-lasting side effects, such as incontinence or erectile dysfunction
- If a screening shows you have prostate cancer, it’s important to talk with a prostate cancer specialist who can help you evaluate your options and make the choice that’s right for you.
Before you decide to be screened, talk with your doctor about whether and when prostate cancer screening is right for you. If you don’t have a doctor, please call 1-800-DOCTORS. We’ll be happy to help.
Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines
Specialists in the Prostate and Urologic Cancer Program encourage all men at risk for prostate cancer to consider appropriate screening. Men considering prostate cancer screening should first talk with their personal physicians so they may make an informed decision about the risks and benefits, and whether screening is right for them.
The following guidelines are based on American Cancer Society recommendations about prostate cancer screening. Men should not be tested without first learning about the risks and possible benefits of testing and treatment. They should have a conversation with their doctor about whether, when and how often prostate cancer screening is appropriate, given individual health factors.
After having a discussion with their doctor, men who want to be screened should be tested with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening. The discussion about screening and your risk factors should take place at:
- Age 50: Men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
- Age 45: Men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African-Americans; the rate at which African-American men are diagnosed with cancer is 76% higher than for white men. All men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65) are considered to be at high risk.
- Age 40: Men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).