Prostate Health: The Importance of Getting Screened
Prostate screening involves looking for prostate cancer before a patient experiences any symptoms with the goal of detecting cancer early and before it begins to spread. The decision to undergo screening is a personal one and should only be made after you’ve spoken with your doctor and have all of the information you need.
At Profound Medical, our goal is to help educate patients on their options so they can make an informed decision for themselves. Ultimately, you are the biggest advocate for your prostate health. To help you make an informed decision, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about prostate screening below.
What are the benefits of prostate screening?
Screening is only meant to detect cancer – it is not part of the treatment process. There are no inherent risks with screening and the following benefits apply:
- Early detection of high-risk cancers lowers the chance of the cancer spreading.
- Even if the cancer is slow-growing or does not spread, some men prefer to know if they have prostate cancer so they can make informed lifestyle changes.
- Slow-growing cancer can be monitored closely.
- If no cancer is detected, men can have peace of mind about their prostate health.
- Screening can detect other issues, such as an enlarged or inflamed prostate.
Should I be screened?
Your doctor will discuss whether prostate screening is right for you and factor in your overall health, risk of prostate cancer, age, and any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Generally, prostate screening is considered for men who are:
- 40 years old with a first-degree relative (father or brother) who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age.
- 45 years old with a high risk of prostate cancer, including African-Americans and have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- 50 years old with a 10+ year life expectancy and an average risk of prostate cancer.
What can I expect?
Screening for prostate cancer is typically performed by a urologist or general practitioner during a full prostate exam, which includes a PSA and DRE:
- A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test – The prostate produces a specific type of protein that enters the bloodstream. A PSA test involves taking a small blood sample from your arm, which is then taken to a lab to measure the amount of protein. Patients with prostate cancer have a high amount of PSA in their blood, though it’s important to know that a high PSA count does not necessarily lead to a cancer diagnosis.
- A digital rectal exam (DRE) – This is the most common screening procedure. Although some patients describe a DRE as uncomfortable, it is quick and over in less than a minute. You will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on your side with your knees up to your chest or stay standing while bent forward. A doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger inside your rectum to examine the prostate gland for any lumps or soft or hard spots.
Your doctor may recommend one or both of the above tests and will discuss the results immediately after the screening.
What if my results are abnormal?
Any abnormalities found are not always a sign of cancer. They can be an indication of other prostate issues that are not cancerous, including Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), bacterial infection, an enlarged or inflamed prostate, or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. Prostate screening is typically the first step to determine whether further investigations are needed to definitively diagnose cancer, such as a:
- Biopsy in which prostate tissue is taken for testing.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can help determine whether cancer has spread to other areas.
- Bone scan to determine if cancer has spread to the bones.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan, which uses x-ray equipment to create detailed images of organs, tissues, bones, and blood vessels.
The choice to get screened is on a case-by-case basis. Discuss with your doctor to make the best decision for you.