The American Cancer Society recommends that men with average risk begin prostate screening at age 50. For those with increased risk factors, they suggest 45 or even 40. Before deciding, it is important to weigh the pros and cons with a urologist, and whether you are symptomatic.
What We All Know About Finding Cancer
Most of us know that finding any cancer in its early stages portends a better prognosis. Most likely it hasn’t spread and can be more easily treated. That’s the main reason we are given a timetable about when to be screened, and why we should adhere to those recommendations.
Things to Consider
Most prostate cancers are slow growing which is a comforting thought. Other cancers are more aggressive and would benefit from early treatment.
If you decide not to get screened, you can always change your mind later. In addition, if you do get screened, you don’t have to go forward with the next step. You should always talk with a urologist about each step you take and what is best for you so you can make an educated decision for your health.
Your personal risk factors should play a part in your decision.
Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer
Deciding when to begin screening for prostate cancer is based on your own personal risk factors.
These are the most concerning risk factors:
- Your age. Being over the age of 50.
- Your race. Black men are more at risk for prostate cancer than men of other races. Black men are also two times more likely to die from prostate cancer.
- Your family history. Having a close relative like a father or brother who had prostate cancer puts you at a high risk.
- Your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for prostate cancer.
- Your lifestyle. Poor nutrition and diet makes you more susceptible.
Two Kinds of Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer
There are really only two kinds of tests to determine if you have prostate cancer.
A digital rectal exam (DRE) is given by urologist Richard Levin, MD in the office. A lubricated and gloved finger is inserted into the rectum to feel the size and shape of the prostate. This is usually performed in combination with PSA to look for abnormalities, but never used as the definitive test.
PSA Test stands for Prostate Specific Antigen Test. This is a blood test which tells your physician how much of this prostate making protein is in your blood.
The higher the level of PSA, the more likely you are to have prostate cancer.
However, it’s important to note, there are many other factors which can raise this PSA level, so you can’t assume it’s prostate cancer from an abnormal result. Certain medications, race, age, medical conditions, an enlarged prostate, or an infection or inflammation of the prostate can all cause PSA levels to rise.
A biopsy may be recommended next if levels are high. If the biopsy shows cancer cells, then you will be given some options like watch and wait with follow ups, radiation, or surgery.
In consultation with Richard Levin, MD, consider the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.