In many situations, screening to detect a disease before symptoms manifest can help find the disease early when it is more easily treated. But for some types of diseases, the risks of screening must be compared to the benefits. One such screening is prostate cancer screening. Becoming knowledgeable on the types, risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening is an important first step in making the decision to get screened.
About Prostate Cancer
About one in every seven men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
Types of Prostate Cancer Screening
There are two main tests to screen for prostate cancer.
PSA Test. The prostate specific antigen test is a blood test. Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
Digital Rectal Exam. The digital rectal exam, or DRE, involves the physician examining the rectum for hard areas or bumps that may indicate prostate cancer.
Men without risks for prostate cancer are often recommended to begin yearly screening at the age of 40. Men with risk factors are often advised to begin their screenings earlier. Early screening in men with risk factors establishes a baseline for future comparison.
Should Every Man Be Screened for Prostate Cancer?
There isn’t a definitive answer to this question. Every man should discuss his unique circumstances, beliefs and risk factors with his doctor to determine what is right for him.
That said, for many men, having the prostate screening test provides them with a level of reassurance in knowing that the likelihood of having prostate cancer is low, or that, if they do have it, they can begin treatment early. This can help reduce the spread of prostate cancer to other areas of the body.
On the other hand, some men decide not to get screened for various reasons. For example, just because a man has a low PSA level, it doesn’t guarantee that he is free of prostate cancer. Likewise, just because a man has a high PSA, it doesn’t necessarily mean he has cancer. In other words, something suspicious may turn out to be harmless. In addition, studies have not been conclusive in showing that screening for prostate cancer has helped men to live longer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Identifying men who are at the greatest risk of developing prostate cancer and its progression is the first step in targeted prostate cancer screening. This reduces unnecessary testing and false positive tests while increasing the likelihood that prostate cancer is detected and treated early in men with a high risk of developing the disease.
If you have any questions about prostate cancer screenings, contact us here or call us at (404) 705-5201. You can also visit ProstAware to learn more about how everyone can participate in the battle against prostate cancer. ProstAware is a nonprofit organization solely dedicated to raising prostate cancer awareness in Georgia.