Although prostate cancer is serious, it’s very treatable when detected early. Most men who have early prostate cancer don’t experience symptoms. That’s why you should discuss with your doctor whether prostate screening is right for you – based on your age, health status and family history.
There are two common types of prostate cancer screenings:
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. PSA is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate. Healthy men have low amounts of PSA in the blood. An elevated PSA may indicate an enlarged prostate or be caused by inflammation of the prostate gland or prostate cancer.
Digital rectal exam (DRE). A doctor or nurse manually checks for abnormalities by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger in the rectum to determine, based on feel, if the prostate is:
Neither the PSA test nor a digital rectal exam provides conclusive proof of problems, including cancer. And there are differing opinions about when these tests should be used.
The American Urologic Association recommends discussing PSA screening with your doctor between the ages of 55 and 59. Screening is not recommended in low-risk men younger than 55 or older than 70. Risk factors, like family history of prostate cancer and African-American race, should be considered when deciding the age to start screening.
As needed, both tests are normally performed by your primary care physician. If problems are suspected, your doctor may refer you to a urology or cancer specialist.