Since the early 1990s, the American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association have recommended two prostate cancer screening tests:
This is a physical examination in which the doctor inserts his or her gloved finger into the rectum to detect any irregularity in the nearby prostate gland’s surface.
This prostate cancer screening test is a blood test that measures levels of a protein made by the prostate. Prostate -specific antigen testing uses chemical methods to provide a PSA number indicating how much of the protein is in the blood.
A combination of both the DRE and PSA is most effective in finding prostate cancer. Screening for prostate cancer in men without symptoms can detect tumors at an earlier stage, allowing for earlier treatment and potentially more favorable results.
- It is recommended that a baseline screening be done at age 40 and possibly again at age 45 before beginning annual prostate cancer screening at age 50.
- Annual prostate cancer screening is recommended after the age of 50 for men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy.
- Men at high risk, such as African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an age younger than 65, should begin prostate cancer screening tests at age 45.
- Men at even higher risk (with several first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age) could begin testing at age 40. If the results of this initial prostate cancer screening test are less than 1 ng/ml, further testing might not be needed until age 45.
- Understand from your doctor the benefits, side effects and potential risks of PSA screening.
- Ask questions regarding early prostate cancer detection and treatment so that you can make informed decisions about testing.
- As discussed earlier, digital rectal examination (DRE) and Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) testing are most effective when used together to detect prostate cancer.
- A PSA of less than 4.0 ng/ml does not mean that you do not have prostate cancer. A normal DRE does not mean that you do not have prostate cancer.
- Conversely, an abnormal DRE or a high PSA level does not necessarily mean that you do have prostate cancer. Some elevations in PSA may be due to benign (not cancerous) conditions of the prostate. If you do have a PSA result of 4.0 ng/ml or higher, your doctor will work with you to determine the cause of this elevated PSA level.