What is Prostate Cancer Screening?

Prostate cancer screening refers to testing individuals for prostate cancer to detect the disease in the initial stages. A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam are among the procedures that could be used for cancer detection. As per guidelines, yearly prostate screening may be recommended to men more than fifty years of age and men older than forty-five who have risk factors for prostate cancer. If the test results indicate an abnormality, follow-up procedures such as a prostate biopsy or an ultrasound might be advised to make a diagnosis.

The incidence of prostate cancer is considered to be higher in men who have a closely related family member, such as father or a brother, with the disease. African American men may be more susceptible to this form of cancer. While annual prostate cancer screening is usually suggested to men above the age of fifty, those at risk might be advised to get tested in their forties. Screening tests may be indicated if one experiences urinary symptoms that are typically associated with prostate problems. Prostate cancer screening is generally not recommended to those over seventy-five as medical experts reason that cancer is not likely to cause troublesome symptoms or health problems in their lifetime.


The PSA test for prostate cancer screening is a blood test that determines the amount of a specific protein made by the prostate. PSA tests results are customarily reported in terms of nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood. High levels of PSA or sharp rise in the blood PSA level may be a sign of prostate inflammation, enlargement, or cancer.

Generally, a digital rectal exam (DRE) is also done in addition to the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. For the DRE the doctor typically puts a lubricated and gloved finger into the rectum. The doctor checks for lumps or hardness of the prostate, which is located in the front of the rectum. The rectal examination usually takes about five to ten seconds, and doesn’t cause much discomfort.

The physician may advise more tests to diagnose the prostate problem if an individual’s PSA levels have been rising or an abnormal lump is found in the DRE. One of the procedures that might be suggested is a prostate biopsy. It is an out-patient procedure done under local anesthesia to extract a tiny tissue sample from the prostate. Tissue samples are usually taken from various areas throughout the prostate. The samples are then sent for examination under microscope by a pathologist to ascertain if the cells are cancerous.

The decision to undergo prostate cancer screening could be taken in consultation with a doctor. A doctor can advise whether one requires to be screened based on the person’s age, overall health condition, and risk factors for prostate cancer. As prostate cancer typically does not cause noticeable symptoms at its onset, screening tests can be useful in detecting it in time. The PSA test, however, is considered to have certain drawbacks; for instance, sometimes the test may show up false positive results in men that don’t have cancer. A doctor can explain the advantages and limitations of prostate cancer screening, and what the test results may signify.



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