February 25, 2022
When Is the Right Time for a Prostate Cancer Screening?
Cancer can start to grow without it being obvious in places like the prostate, colon, and breasts. Because of this, cancer screening tests are recommended to look for early signs of developing cancer. Screenings should be a part of everyone’s regular medical care as you age.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men. The good news is that it can be successfully treated in most men, especially when it’s caught earlier, rather than at a later stage when the cancer cells have spread to other areas of the body. The best way to monitor for the development of prostate cancer is by keeping a regular screening schedule.
Am I Likely to Develop Prostate Cancer?
Some factors increase your likelihood of getting prostate cancer, but it does not necessarily mean you will be diagnosed. On the flip side, you might have only 1 or 2 risk factors based on age and race and still develop prostate cancer.
Some risk factors for prostate cancer are within our control, others are not. Risk factors for prostate cancer include:
Being older than 50
Being of African American or Caribbean descent
Having a family history of prostate cancer from an immediate family member, such as a father or brother
Gene mutations, such as Lynch syndrome
Diet, specifically those high in dairy or calcium
Exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange
Read our blog: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Prostate Cancer
When Should Prostate Cancer Screening Start?
Most men should begin screening around the age of 50, even if you have no symptoms. Prostate cancer doesn’t usually show symptoms until it’s more advanced. The screening tests can help find it much sooner when it’s easier to treat.
Your primary care doctor might recommend starting screening earlier, around age 40-45, if you are known to be at high risk. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any of the risk factors listed above so they can help create a screening schedule that’s right for you.
After age 70, prostate cancer screenings are not usually recommended.
If you have prostate cancer symptoms, speak to your physician so they can investigate further. Common signs and symptoms of prostate cancer are also symptoms of other prostate-related conditions. A screening test will help the doctor decide if it might be cancer or if it’s more likely a non-cancerous condition causing discomfort. These symptoms might include:
A slow or weak urinary stream
The need to urinate more often or at night
Blood in urine or semen
Difficulties getting an erection
Discomfort or pain
Weakness or numbness
Loss of bladder or bowel control
Waiting to get the answers you need can make it harder to treat, leading to more significant treatments compared to what may be needed if caught early.
Benefits of Screening for Prostate Cancer
The number one benefit of prostate cancer screening is information available to you and your doctor that can help you make important decisions. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be done to see if there are abnormal cells.
This allows you to take precautions and make plans and decisions needed for treatment, giving you a long-term quality of life. Proper treatment prevents cancer from spreading any further. If you are at risk or have a family history of prostate cancer, getting screened can also give you peace of mind.
Types of Prostate Cancer Screening Tests
There are two standard types of prostate cancer screening tests:
1. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
Also referred to as PSA, this is a blood test that looks at proteins created by the prostate. If your levels are high, you are more likely to develop or have prostate cancer. However, other conditions can contribute to the increased levels of PSA, such as medications or infections. Other abnormal results are age, prostate size, and urinary tract infections. A few medical conditions may alter the test results, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) or prostatitis (inflammation). That’s why an elevated PSA test doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer but should be monitored to see if it keeps going up. After a few elevated test results, further information should be gathered, most likely through a biopsy.
2. Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
This is the part of your annual physical that may be a bit more uncomfortable, however necessary. Your physician will insert a gloved finger into your rectum to feel the prostate. They will use lubrication to help minimize discomfort and feel for any abnormalities in your rectum, anus, and prostate. If they feel anything out of the ordinary, especially if the PSA level was elevated, further testing with a biopsy is likely.
Are there Cons of Prostate Cancer Screening?
The most common downside of prostate cancer screening is using a single PSA test as a defining sign of prostate cancer. Data has shown that PSA (prostate specific antigens) can rise due to other non-cancerous conditions. However, monitoring the PSA level over a period of time, such as every 6 months, can tell your doctor if it’s still on the rise, possibly leading to a prostate biopsy for more information.
Next Steps Based on Your Prostate Cancer Screening Results
If you believe you are at risk of prostate cancer or are experiencing symptoms, see your primary care physician for an initial evaluation. If you become diagnosed with prostate cancer, they will refer you to an oncologist to treat the cancer.
Cancer Care Centers of Brevard has medical oncologists and radiation oncologists who will work with you to identify the best treatment plan for you. We primarily serve the Brevard County area, including Melbourne, Rockledge, and Palm Bay, FL. We also offer second opinions for prostate cancer. Most men have some time before treatment must begin. Take the time to evaluate your options and choose the cancer care team you feel most comfortable with.
Categories: Prostate Cancer