Catching prostate cancer early — before it spreads and while treatments are most effective — can save your life. As a regular course of action, your doctor will likely recommend annual prostate screenings beginning at age 55. However, it could be recommended as early as age 40 if you’re at greater risk for prostate cancer.
While these screenings can seem scary if you don’t know what to expect, understanding them and what the results mean for your health can go a long way to ease your worries. Khaled Shahrour, MD, is here to offer you peace of mind about your screening with valuable information you can keep in your back pocket at your appointment.
What Are the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer?
“It’s impossible to predict whether or not someone will develop prostate cancer,” says Dr. Shahrour. But he says that you can look for certain risk factors that point to an increased chance of getting it, including:
- Eating habits
- Exposure to certain chemicals
- Family history
- Gene changes
- History of related conditions, such as an inflamed prostate
Dr. Shahrour explains, “Having one or even several of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll develop prostate cancer. They are simply considerations that will help you and your doctor better gauge when to start your prostate screenings and take a look at your overall health.”
How Will I Be Screened for Prostate Cancer?
There are several tests that could be recommended to help your physician diagnose or rule out prostate cancer. No matter which screening you need, you can relax knowing that none of them are as bad as you think. Your primary care provider may perform one or both of these simple tests.
PSA Blood Test
This blood test checks your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The normal level of PSA for a healthy male under the age of 55 is 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. For men ages 55 to 70, the normal level is less than 3.5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.
“Since no two men are alike, a higher level doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, and a lower level doesn’t mean you’re cancer-free. These numbers serve as a baseline for your doctor to determine if further testing is needed,” says Dr. Shahrour.
If you’re an older adult male, your primary care physician may perform other lab tests, such as lipid and metabolic panels, at the same time as your routine PSA to screen for other common age-related health issues. You may be required to fast before testing.
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
During a DRE, your primary care physician will perform a physical exam, feeling for any nodules, lumps, masses or tenderness on or around your prostate gland. “The DRE exam itself is relatively painless, and the data obtained can be priceless,” Dr. Shahrour explains.
What if My Results Are Abnormal?
Abnormal screening results may indicate you have prostate cancer or that you need further testing before your physician can make a proper diagnosis. Either way, it’s best that you’ve caught any potential health issues early to stave off future complications.
Feel Whole for Life
Learning more and talking to your doctor about prostate cancer will help you take charge of your health — and strengthen your body, mind and spirit. Our AdventHealth urology experts are here to help at our many convenient locations.