When should men be screened for prostate cancer?
Christopher Stewart, MD, is an urologist who practices at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.
Question: When should men be screened for prostate cancer and why is it so important?
Answer: Prostate cancer is the most frequent form of cancer among men, and yet it’s among the most treatable. Early detection means increased options when it comes to treatment. But early detection hinges on annual screenings.
The aim of regular screening is to find prostate cancers before they spread by testing the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood and with a digital rectal exam. The two tests combined provide the best chance at detecting this cancer before symptoms even begin to appear.
While there’s some debate, doctors generally agree that annual screenings are essential for men between 50 and 80. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should start getting screened at 40. Studies have shown that men with a family history of prostate cancer are more likely to develop the disease ¬— and at a younger age.
If problems are detected during the screening, your doctor may order a biopsy, which takes only about five minutes and can be performed in the office.
Unfortunately, when patients begin experiencing symptoms, such as blood in the urine or pelvic pain, the cancer has probably already spread to other parts of the body. In these cases, our goal shifts from curing the cancer to putting it into remission.
Enlargement of the prostate is commonly confused with prostate cancer, but in reality they are completely different conditions. Typically, enlargement of the prostate results in frequent urination and/or a slowed stream. These symptoms may or may not be present in prostate cancer.