During our cancer prevention and early detection campaign, we’ve covered mammography, lung cancer screening, and colonoscopy. So, next in line is that favorite test for our favorite dudes. Here’s a little Q&A you may find helpful:
What’s the best way to detect prostate cancer?
It has been common practice to use the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test as a screening tool for prostate cancer along with a digital rectal exam (DRE). The PSA is a blood test that measures a protein that is released in the blood when there are prostate cancer cells present. Although normal and malignant prostate cells secrete the protein, higher PSA levels may indicate the probability of cancer. Because the DRE can sometimes find cancers in men with normal PSA levels, doctors suggest that you have both tests.
Do all men have to get this test, or just old guys?
The American Cancer Society recommends annual screening with a PSA test and a digital rectal exam for all men after age 50 who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years. Men who are at higher-than-average risk—including African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer—should begin annual screening at age 40.
There was a study last year that said the PSA wasn’t really that useful. What’s that about?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announced that even though there is good evidence that PSA screening can detect early-stage prostate cancer, there is “mixed and inconclusive evidence that early detection improves health outcomes.” Screenings may cause “frequent false-positive results and unnecessary anxiety, biopsies, and potential complications of treatment of some cancers that may never have affected a patient’s health.”
The Task Force says there is insufficient evidence to support whether the benefits of regular screenings outweigh the potential harms. At SCCA, we believe screenings are beneficial. SCCA doctors are also UW Medicine faculty who are all well-equipped to discuss the potential benefits and risks of screening and to determine if regular screenings are appropriate for you.
What can men do to lower their risk for getting prostate cancer?
Keeping a healthy weight through eating right and exercising are important to lowering your risk for any type of cancer, as well as prostate cancer.