Health Care Public Health

Early Detection of Prostate Cancer Can Save Lives

A man at his annual appointment with his doctor.
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Did you know that being aware of the risk factors and preventive measures you can take for prostate cancer can significantly reduce your risk of an advanced prostate cancer diagnosis? We’re here to help you recognize them.

Prostate cancer is rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises after age 50. Black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer in close relatives are most at risk for developing this disease.

Catching Prostate Cancer Early Can Save Your Life

While it largely develops in older men, prostate cancer can happen at any age. In fact, it’s the second cause of cancer death among men. Although that’s a startling statistic, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially in its early stages, can survive it.

That’s why detecting this slow-growing cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is so important. A conversation with your primary care physician or urologist about your prostate cancer risk can help to create a screening plan that’s right for you.

Risk Factors and Screening Recommendations

When no symptoms are present, we suggest starting prostate cancer screening at:

  • Age 40 – 54 for men at high risk (African American men or men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer, male and female breast cancer, ovarian cancer or pancreatic cancer at an age younger than age 65.)
  • Age 55 – 69 for men at average risk have the greatest benefit for screening
  • Age 70 or above for men who are in good health may benefit from continued prostate cancer screening

Screening helps detect cancer before symptoms may occur, while the tests look for possible signs of prostate cancer but cannot tell for sure if you have cancer. If the screening test comes back abnormal, next steps should be taken — such as a prostate biopsy.

Prostate Cancer Screening Types

There are a number of 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 physician or a urologist may perform one or both of these relatively painless tests.

PSA Blood Test

This blood test checks your level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The normal level of PSA for a healthy man is 4 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 just serve as a baseline for your primary care doctor to determine if further testing is needed.

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. In this situation, you may be required to fast prior to testing.

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

During a DRE, your doctor will perform a physical exam, feeling for any nodules, lumps, masses or tenderness on or around your prostate gland. The exam itself is relatively painless and the information gained can be invaluable.

DRE, on its own, is less effective than the PSA blood test in finding prostate cancer, but it can sometimes find cancers in men with normal PSA levels. For this reason, it might be included as a part of prostate cancer screening.

If your screening results are abnormal, it doesn’t always mean that you have prostate cancer.
Many men with higher than normal PSA levels do not have cancer, so further testing may be needed to help find out the reason for the abnormal screening.

It’s important to discuss your options, including possible pros and cons, with your doctor to help you choose the best and most accurate option for screening.

Prostate Cancer Care at AdventHealth

Our cancer care team comes together to deliver care you can count on and support you in healing. Learn more about prostate cancer screening, your risk factors and treatment options at

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