Testing for Prostate Cancer: Early Detection and Screening
(Read time: 4 minutes)
This article is not intended to replace professional medical care or advice. If you have any questions or need additional information, please talk with your doctor.
Should I get screened for prostate cancer?
It’s a question men may consider, especially if they have prostate cancer risk factors, such as family history or genetic, lifestyle, or dietary factors.1
Fortunately, prostate cancer screening may help detect the disease at an early stage, even before symptoms begin to appear.2 The 5-year survival rate for men with localized prostate cancer are greater than 99% for men who detect prostate cancer at an early stage.3
We’ve consolidated information for you to review which you can discuss at your next doctor’s appointment.
What do the experts say about prostate cancer screening?
Most prostate cancers are first found as a result of screening.4
The American Cancer Society recommends that men make an informed decision about prostate cancer screening with their healthcare provider. According to the American Cancer Society, the discussion for screening should take place at:2
- Age 50 for men at average risk of prostate cancer
- Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer (e.g., Black men or men with a father or brother who have been diagnosed)
- Age 40 for men at even higher risk (e.g., men with several relatives who have been diagnosed)
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer often grows slowly, so a man’s overall health status, and not age alone, is important when making decisions about screening.5,6 Screening should be discussed with a doctor.
Types of prostate cancer screening
Prostate cancer screening offers the benefit of potential early detection, which can make the disease easier to manage and control.7 Following are the different types of prostate cancer screening options:5,7
Prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA test)
What it involves: Your doctor draws a small amount of blood from your arm.5,7
What it measures: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by cells in the prostate gland. The PSA test checks the level of PSA in your blood. The higher the PSA, the more likely there may be a prostate problem.5,7
What you should know: Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter). For individuals with prostate cancer, PSA levels usually rise above this number.5Learn more about PSA levels and tips to reduce your risk of prostate cancer
A PSA level over 4 doesn’t mean you have prostate cancer, nor does a PSA below 4 mean you don’t have prostate cancer. PSA levels over 10 indicate a 50% chance of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.5
Note that there is always the potential for a false-positive or false-negative result. The National Cancer Institute states that conditions such as prostatitis and enlarged prostate, as well as the use of certain medications, can affect PSA levels.8
Digital rectal exam (DRE test)
What it involves: Your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into a man’s rectum to feel the prostate for anything abnormal, such as cancer.5,7
What it measures: The DRE test looks for abnormal sizes and irregular shapes and textures in the prostate.5,7
What you should know: The majority of prostate cancers can be detected through a DRE exam, and the DRE exam helps urologists distinguish between prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions, like prostate gland enlargement.5,7
If the PSA test and/or DRE exam indicates prostate cancer, you may have to undergo a biopsy, which can be performed in an outpatient setting. For the biopsy, a provider removes microscopic pieces of tissue from the prostate gland. This tissue is then examined for cancerous cells. If the biopsy reveals prostate cancer, the next step is discussing with your doctor the best type of treatment for your situation.5
Choosing the best treatment option for you
The benefit of prostate cancer screening is its potential to catch prostate cancer at an early stage, when the cancer is still localized and there are options for treatment.5
Common prostate cancer treatments include:9
- Radiation therapy
- Prostatectomy (surgery)
- Active surveillance
- Focal therapies
- Systemic therapies (e.g., hormonal therapy, chemotherapy)
Each type of prostate cancer treatment has its benefits and risks, which is why it’s important to talk with your doctor about your screening and treatment options.SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel is designed to help reduce prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects.10 Learn more.
Getting serious about prostate health
If you’d like to learn more about prostate cancer screening, and where to find screenings near you, you can use the following resources: