The answer is yes. Get tested for prostate cancer.

By R. Bruce Bracken, MD

A few years ago, the US Preventative Screenings Task Force created confusion and uncertainty when they recommended that men not get screened for prostate cancer with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Urologists at UC Health could not disagree more with those recommendations. Here’s why:

Without PSA screenings, prostate cancer may not be detected until it is too advanced to cure.

Regular prostate cancer screenings can often help us catch prostate cancer before it becomes advanced or spreads. Once prostate cancer gets to an advanced stage, it is much more difficult to manage. Treatment options for advanced cancer also carry severe side effects.

Answer is more judicious treatment, not avoiding screening.

The US Preventative Screenings Task Force made their recommendation based on evidence that men with low-risk prostate cancer were receiving overtreatment for a cancer that was not likely to spread, cause complications that diminish the quality of life. However, to throw out the PSA screening test all together is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. Today, we are able to put low-risk cancer patients into active surveillance (“watch and monitor”), where we regularly monitor PSA levels and signs of symptoms without any having the patient undergo aggressive treatment.

A prostate screening may not be “comfortable” but it can help save a life.

To screen for prostate cancer, a man will receive a digital rectal exam and have blood drawn to check PSA levels. No one looks forward to a digital rectal exam, but it is quick and worth it.

The PSA screening test measures your body’s PSA. PSA is a protein made by the prostate. It is normal for a small amount to leak into the blood stream.  A higher PSA, or a PSA level that is increasing over time, may indicate there is something wrong with the prostate. It’s important to note an elevated PSA test does not necessarily indicate cancer. There are a number of conditions that could cause an elevated PSA, ranging from inflammation of the prostate, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) to cancer.

Get prostate cancer screening at 50 years old or 40 if you have high-risk factors.

Men 50 years and older should talk to their doctor about when and how often they should get screened for prostate cancer with a PSA test.  If you have high-risk factors, including family history or African-American heritage, start talking to you doctor at 40 years of age.

If you have additional questions about prostate cancer screenings, or would like to speak to a UC Health doctor, please call us at (513) 475-8787.

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