Disease Prevention in Men - Prostate Screening

What types of tests or screenings do you get for your prostate, and how often?

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Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States.

Although screening tests (see below) are available, there is no scientific consensus on effective measures for reducing the incidence of prostate cancer. Additionally, there is no agreement on the effectiveness of screening or that the potential benefits of screening tests outweigh the risks.

Tests or procedures for prostate cancer

  • Digital rectal examination (DRE)
  • PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test

Who to test and how often

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening in men younger than age 75 years and that screening should not be carried out in men age 75 years or older.

The controversy regarding screening tests

The purpose of the screening is to detect early, tiny, or even microscopic cancers that are confined to the prostate gland. Early treatment of these malignancies (cancers) can stop the growth, prevent the spread, and possibly cure the cancer. However, the evidence is not conclusive that screening and treatment of early and localized prostate cancer is beneficial; some elderly men may live with prostate cancer for many years and die from other conditions rather than from the prostate cancer, and the measures undertaken for diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer (surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormones) can have side effects and serious complications such as pain associated with the biopsy procedure, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, bowel dysfunction, and death. For this reason, screening of men over age 75 years is not recommended, and younger men must consider the potential benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening and discuss these with their health care practitioner before undergoing screening tests.

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