Screening for Prostate Cancer: When to Start and Why it Matters

Your prostate is an important gland that produces seminal fluid to transport your sperm out of your body when you ejaculate. Even if you’ve had a vasectomy and no longer ejaculate sperm, your prostate still produces and releases seminal fluid.

Unfortunately, this walnut-shaped gland is also susceptible to cancer. About 200,000 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020. However, if the cancer is caught early enough, it can be cured. More than 3.1 million men who have had prostate cancer are still alive.

Our expert team at the Low Testosterone & Weight Loss Center, in Allen, Texas, offers prostate cancer screening as part of our men’s health exam. Here’s why and when you should get screened.

Screening equals early treatment

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States for men, according to the National Cancer Institute. It’s the second leading cause of cancer death in that population, too. 

A simple blood test called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test determines the level of your PSA. All men have PSA, and your body uses it to liquefy semen so that your sperm can swim freely. 

Elevated levels of PSA could mean that you have cancer. Normal cells produce PSA, but if you have high levels of PSA, some of it could be produced by cancer cells, which also release PSA.

Doctors believe that PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL are a warning sign of cancer. But, if your PSA levels are higher than that, our team recommends other tests, too, because each man has his own “normal,” and it doesn’t mean you definitely have cancer.  

If your other tests are normal, then your first PSA test serves as a baseline measurement. During each subsequent screen, our team compares your PSA levels to your normal baseline.

When our providers detect highly elevated PSA levels, and your other tests are also abnormal, that means you might need to begin treatment. The earlier you catch and treat prostate cancer, the better your odds are of surviving it. 

Don’t screen too early

Although cancer screening tests are an important part of your health regimen, over-screening can sometimes lead to over-treatment. That’s why the screening recommendations for the PSA test have evolved over the years.

Unless our providers believe you’re at high risk for prostate cancer, you don’t need a screening test under the age of 40 years. The American Urological Association found no benefit for PSA screening in young men. However, it’s a good idea to start testing at age 40 to establish your normal baseline.

During each of your men’s health annual exams, our team may perform another kind of prostate screening test, known as the digital rectal exam (DRE). In a DRE, our team checks manually for an enlarged prostate. If your prostate is enlarged, our team may recommend a PSA test, no matter your age. 

Screening schedule depends on the risk

Between the ages of 40 and 54, you don’t need to screen regularly unless you’re in a higher risk group. Risk factors for prostate cancer include being of African American heritage or having a multi-generation family history of metastatic or lethal adenocarcinomas (e.g., breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or pancreatic cancer) that appeared at a young age.

From ages 55 to 69, you and our team decide if the benefits of screening outweigh the risks of over screening and over-treatment. Most men benefit from being screened no more than every two years.

If you’re 70 or over, you don’t need to get screened for prostate cancer. However, if your health is excellent and you’re likely to live for more than another 15 years, you’d benefit from continuing to monitor your PSA levels.

High PSA doesn’t always mean cancer

Just because your PSA is high, you don’t have to worry unnecessarily. It’s normal for PSA levels to rise as you get older. You might also have high PSA due to:

To find out if you’d benefit from a prostate cancer screening PSA test, DRE, or to set up a men’s health exam, call 469-912-2113 or use our online form to book a consultation at our office in Allen, Texas.

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