When should you screen for prostate cancer?

Men should discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor.
Men should discuss the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening with their doctor.

Screening for prostate cancer helps detecta tumor early, enabling timely treatment and prevention of any complications. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the decision to get screened should be made by men in consultation with their doctor. The doctor needs to counsel the men about the uncertainties involved in the screening process, the risks and potential benefits of getting screened for prostate cancer. The risks for prostate cancer include:

  • Age: The chances of getting prostate cancer increase with age. Most experts recommend considering screening when a man is in his 50s.
  • Race: African American men are at a greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Family history: There is a higher risk of prostate cancer in men who have a close family member (father, uncle or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • Heredity: Certain genetic conditions may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Diet: Men who have a diet rich in animal fats and low in fruits and vegetables may have greater chances of getting prostate cancer.

You must ask your doctor about getting screened for prostate cancer if

  • You are in your 50s and have an average risk of prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is usually slow growing. Thus, men who do not have any symptoms of prostate cancer and do not have a life expectancy of at least 10 years may not be screened since they are not likely to benefit.
  • You are 45 years old and are at high risk of developing prostate cancer. High-risk groups include African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
  • You are 40 years old and have an even higher risk of prostate cancer. This includes people who have more than one first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age.

If a man is not able to decide whether they should go for screening after a discussion with their doctor, the doctor can recommend screening keeping in mind the man’s general health preferences and values. Most health experts recommend that screening should not be done if a man is around the age of 70 years old or if he has other serious medical conditions that limit his life expectancy.

Which test is done for screening of prostate cancer?

There is no single, standard test for screening for prostate cancer. The screening commonly is done with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This test measures the blood levels of PSA, which is a substance made by the prostate. An ultrasonography may be done if PSA values are dubious. Another commonly used test that may be done for screening is the digital rectal examination or DRE. During a DRE, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into a man’s rectum and feels the prostate for anything abnormal, such as cancer.

Should I get screened again for prostate cancer if my first screening came back negative?

If screening revealed that you do not have prostate cancer, you need to get repeat screening based on the results of the PSA blood test.

  • If your PSA was less than 2.5 ng/mL, you may need to be retested every two years.
  • If your PSA level was 2.5 ng/mL or higher, you need to be screened annuallyfor prostate cancer.

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