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. We have some helpful tips that can help guide you.
When to Consider Prostate Cancer Screening
Although the medical community agrees it’s a good idea, there really isn’t a hard and fast rule on when prostate cancer screenings should start or which screening methods should be used.
"Guidelines on prostate cancer screenings can be confusing, but it is still so important to have the conversation with your doctor early on. Prostate cancer is highly treatable if caught early enough, so staying diligent is the best course of action here,” says prostate cancer specialist Carlos Alemany, MD.
It’s ultimately up to you and your primary care physician (PCP) to talk about your prostate cancer risk and to create a screening plan that’s right for you.
Since prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, especially in early stages, the American Cancer Society offers suggestions on when conversations about prostate cancer screening should begin as a general rule. But in the event you do experience any of these symptoms, you should talk with your doctor right away:
- Back pain
- Blood in your urine
- Changes in your urine flow or frequency
- Pain while urinating
- Pelvic pain
When no symptoms are present, you should talk with your doctor about prostate cancer screening at:
- Age 40 for men at high risk (family history of prostate cancer, especially more than one close relative)
- Age 45 for men at high risk (African-American men or those with one close relative with prostate cancer)
- Age 50 for men at average risk
Prostate Cancer Screening Tests
There are a number of tests available to help detect prostate cancer, including:
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
A DRE is a physical examination where your doctor will check your prostate for lumps (polyps) or anything unusual.
Prostate-Specific Antigen Test
This test measures the level of PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, in your blood. While a high PSA level can indicate prostate cancer, it doesn’t always mean you have it. An increased PSA level can also be a sign of infection, inflammation or an enlarged prostate.
Since the PSA test is non-invasive, it’s a great place to start. If your PSA level is high, you and your doctor can decide what further tests are needed.
Prostate Cancer Gene 3 RNA Test
If you have a high PSA level and a biopsy of your prostate doesn’t show cancer, your doctor may recommend you test for the prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3). The test measures the amount of PCA3 RNA in your urine after a physical exam of your rectum (DRE). If the PCA3 RNA level is higher than normal, another biopsy may help diagnose prostate cancer.
“The PSA screening test and digital rectal exam are the most common and reliable methods for prostate cancer screening. Discuss which option is right for you with your physician,” says Dr. Alemany.
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. To learn more about prostate cancer and screenings, visit AdventHealthCancerInstitute.com/UrologicCancer.