Prostate Cancer Screening

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Prostate Cancer Screening at Mercy

Although prostate cancer is very serious, it can be treated effectively when detected early. However, most men who have early prostate cancer won’t experience any symptoms at all. And if allowed to progress untreated, prostate cancer can spread throughout the body and become life-threatening. That’s why you should discuss with your Mercy doctor whether a routine prostate screening is right for you. 

Prostate Cancer Screening Methods

At Mercy, we’ll help you understand your risk of developing prostate cancer and, as needed, test and diagnose. Our team of cancer specialists and health care professionals has helped thousands of men overcome prostate cancer. Our goal is to make sure you’re one of them. There are two common types of prostate cancer screenings:  prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam (DRE). 

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

A 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.

The PSA level in blood is measured in units called nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Your chance of developing prostate cancer increases as your PSA level increases. 4 ng/mL is a common threshold for determining whether a man needs further testing. 

PSA screening is not recommended in low-risk men younger than 55 or older than 70. 

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

A digital rectal exam (DRE) is a test used to check for prostate abnormalities. Your Mercy doctor or nurse will manually insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to determine if your prostate is:

  • Normal size and has a smooth surface
  • Larger than expected for your age (this could be a sign of an enlarged prostate)
  • Hard and lumpy (this could be a sign of prostate cancer)

Neither the PSA test or a DRE can provide conclusive evidence of cancer. Both tests are normally performed as needed by your Mercy primary care physician. If problems are suspected following either test, your Mercy doctor may refer you to a urologist or prostate cancer specialist for further testing. 

Prostate Cancer Screening Recommendations

The American Cancer Society guidelines for PSA screening are based on a combination of your age and risk level. Men at average risk and below the age of 55 aren't advised to get the PSA test.

Other recommendations based on age are as follows:

  • Age 40 to 54 - Men at higher risk within this age range may want to consider a PSA screening. For example, if you have a close relative who has had prostate cancer, you may want to talk with your Mercy doctor about getting a PSA test.
  • Age 55 to 69 - Men within this age group who are thinking about getting a PSA screening are advised to talk with their Mercy doctor about the pros and cons of the test. If you have no family history of prostate cancer, this is generally when you would have your first PSA screening.
  • Age 70 and older - Most men within this age bracket aren't advised to get the PSA test, since testing in this age group can cause more harm than good.

Some common factors that put men at high risk include:

  • Race/ethnicity — Your race may be a risk factor for developing prostate cancer. For instance, prostate cancer is more common among African American men.
  • Family history — Men with immediate family members who have had prostate cancer have twice as high a risk of developing it. If several of your relatives have had prostate cancer, especially if they were diagnosed at a young age, your risk is much higher
  • Inherited gene mutations — About 5 to 10% of prostate cancers are hereditary, meaning the cancer is related to a genetic defect inherited by a parent. 

Do I Need to Be Screened for Prostate Cancer?

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