Prostate cancer screening

Overview

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. When it is found before it has spread beyond the prostate gland, men may have more options for care.

A simple blood test can often find prostate cancer early. This test measures levels of PSA, or prostate specific antigen. It may be done along with a “digital rectal exam," in which the doctor feels the prostate gland with a gloved finger inserted into the rectum.

It is not clear whether all men have the same benefits from PSA testing. Prostate cancers are often slow growing, and PSA screening may find cancers that would not ever have caused problems. That poses risks from treatment that may not have been necessary.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men at average risk talk to their doctors about screening PSA starting at age 50.

Some men are at increased risk for prostate cancer. Screening should be considered at 45 for African Americans and men with a “first-degree relative” (a father, brother or son) who had prostate cancer younger than age 65, the ACS says.

For men with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer younger than 65, screening should be considered at age 40.

We encourage all men to talk to their doctor about whether and when prostate cancer screening is right for them. As we learn more about the benefits and risks of screening, as new tests are developed, and as men’s circumstances and preferences change, their decision about screening may change too.

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