What comes to mind when you think about cancer screenings?
You’ve probably heard about the importance of regular mammograms, which are designed to check for any abnormalities or signs of breast cancer. Although prostate cancer screenings aren’t as well known, they’re just as important.
Before prostate cancer screenings became widely available, it was difficult to detect the disease in its early stages since most men don’t experience symptoms until the cancer progresses to an advanced stage.1
However, a lot has changed in the last 30 years. Prostate cancer screenings are common and accessible today.
Who Should Get Screened for Prostate Cancer?
There’s been some back and forth about who should be screened for prostate cancer.
Should every male over 40 should be screened?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend that screening for prostate cancer should happen on a case-by-case basis after a discussion between a patient and his doctor.2,3
Who Has a Higher Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?
Doctors can determine whether you’ll benefit from screening by understanding your risk of developing prostate
One important risk factor is your family history. If you have a close relative or multiple relatives who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, you’re considered at high risk of also developing the disease.2
There are other factors that affect a person’s risk of developing prostate cancer such as race or a history of smoking.2 For example, Black men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer. Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk, so people who smoke or have smoked are considered higher risk.
The ACS suggests that high-risk men between the ages of 40 and 50 should talk with their doctor about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screenings. They recommend that men who are at average risk of prostate cancer begin the conversation with their doctor at age 50.2
The USPSTF suggests that these screenings are most beneficial for men between the ages of 55 and 69.3 Talking with your doctor will help you determine if / when prostate cancer screening might be helpful for you.
Types of Prostate Cancer Screenings
There are two main types of screening for prostate cancer. One is a digital rectal exam (DRE), and the other is the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA).
Digital Rectal Exams
During a DRE, a doctor wears gloves and inserts a finger into the rectum. This test only takes a few seconds. The doctor feels around the prostate gland to check for any abnormalities or concerns.4
Prostate-specific Antigen Test
The second type of screening is called a PSA test – a blood test that involves drawing blood from a vein, most likely from the arm. Then, the blood sample is tested by a lab for PSA, which is a substance produced by the prostate.
High levels of PSA can point to prostate cancer, but can also be caused by other health problems (for example, an enlarged or infected prostate). Based on your screening results, your doctor might recommend further tests such as a prostate biopsy.5
Some Considerations for Screening
If screening can help detect and treat prostate cancer at early stages, why isn’t it recommended for everyone?
One reason is that, like many medical tests, screenings are not 100% accurate and can result in false negatives or false positives. Men with unclear results might feel anxious. With a false positive, they may experience uncomfortable side effects.
Some prostate cancers can also be slow growing – and may never cause significant harm or be life-threatening. However, it’s difficult for doctors to determine which cancers will grow quickly or quickly. They may treat prostate cancer aggressively with surgery or radiation, which can have lasting impacts on urinary and sexual function.6
Still, you and your doctor can work together to decide what’s best for you. Prostate cancer screenings make early detection possible – and early detection saves lives.
Let Us Help
Our team of experts at Prostate Laser Center powered by HALO Diagnostics is here to answer your men’s health questions. We put patients first. Give us a call at (844) MENS-MRI or request a consultation online today.
- Catalona, W.J. (2018). Prostate cancer screening. Medical Clinics of North America. Published online March 2018.
- American Cancer Society. (2021). American Cancer Society recommendations for prostate cancer early detection. Published online April 23, 2021.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2018). Prostate cancer: Screening. Published online May 8, 2018.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). What is screening for prostate cancer? Published online August 25, 2022.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). PSA test. Published online June 22, 2021.
- American Cancer Society. (2020). Prostate cancer risk factors. Published online June 9, 2020.