Prostate cancer screening: is it right for you?  - Primary Health

Prostate cancer screening: is it right for you? 

  • June 11, 2024

  • Adi Chandrasekhar, MD, MPH, FACP

  • 2 minutes

prostate cancer screening

Knowing the top risk factors for prostate cancer can help you navigate the nuances of screening along with your healthcare provider.

There are some cancers for which the benefit from screening tests is very clear. For instance, it’s hard to not see the advantages of screening for colon, breast, or cervical cancers. However, screening for prostate cancer is more nuanced; for today’s blog post, we will delve into the debates around it. 

Prostate cancer remains common with the American Cancer Society (ACS) reporting 1 in 8 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. It also reports 299,010 estimated cases in 2024 leading to 35,250 deaths. The risk goes up with age and is higher in African American men and those of Caribbean ancestry.

The PSA screening test debate

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that men between ages 55 to 69 should discuss their individual screening strategies with their healthcare provider. The test in question to screen for prostate cancer is the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA), which is a blood-based test. The test is not new and there has been years of data around its use and potential pitfalls. The greatest challenge with PSA as a screening tool is around false positive results. For one thing, causes other than prostate cancer can elevate PSA levels. Furthermore, because prostate cancer can grow very slowly, it may not cause increased mortality. Consequently, picking up these cancers early through PSA testing may not provide any survival benefit. 

Conversely, such a cancer risks overtreatment and complications that arise from that, including incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Are you at risk?

It is also worth noting that some people are at higher risk of prostate cancer, including those who have a family history and those who are African-American. For these individuals, the ACS recommends screening at age 45. Men with multiple first degree relatives affected by the disease may even start at age 40.

To wrap up, screening for prostate cancer is nuanced and it is very important that you make an informed decision in discussion with your provider.

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Disclaimer: This blog content and linked materials are not intended as individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered as such. Any readers with medical concerns should contact a licensed healthcare provider. This blog is provided for informational purposes only.

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