Prostate Cancer Screening: Is It Right For You?
Is prostate cancer screening right for you? There are potential benefits and risks to the procedures, and experts are divided on the subject. However, they are in agreement that every man needs balanced information on the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening so that he can make an informed decision as to whether it is right for him.
Some medical experts believe that all men should be offered regular prostate cancer screening tests. Other medical experts do not recommend prostate cancer screening.
Screening for prostate cancer is looking for early-stage disease when prostate cancer treatment may be more effective. The main screening tools for prostate cancer are:
- Digital rectal examination (DRE)
- Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
The DRE and PSA test cannot tell if you have cancer; they can only suggest the need for further tests.
The DRE or digital rectal examination is a quick exam for checking the health of the prostate. For this test, the doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum. This allows the doctor to feel the back portion of the prostate for size and any irregular or abnormally firm areas.
PSA stands for "prostate-specific antigen." PSA is a substance produced by cells from the prostate gland and released into the blood. The PSA test measures the PSA level in the blood.
For this test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm. Then the doctor checks the blood to see if the PSA level is normal. The doctor may also use this test to check for any increase in your PSA level compared to your last PSA test.
As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands produce more PSA than others. PSA levels can also be affected by:
- Certain medical procedures
- An enlarged prostate
- A prostate infection.
Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results.