Whether or not men need to be screened for prostate cancer is a hot topic in the medical field right now. The blood test once thought to be the gold standard in prostate cancer screening, the PSA, has been found to not be a good measure for prostate cancer. This is because it measures PSA in your bloodstream, and men with abnormal PSA levels can be cancer free. The result of the testing has been found, at times, to lead to unnecessary biopsies and even surgeries, ultimately leading to a reduced quality of life in cancer-free men. Furthermore, researchers found no evidence that a PSA test actually improves survival rates for men with prostate cancer. At the same time, if you do in fact have cancer, and you don’t get screened, you risk dying from the disease.
So, what’s a guy to do? Today, most doctors agree it’s a patient-by-patient decision, with only the most flexible guidelines to follow. In the discussions I have with my patients at UCF Health, I consider high-risk factors, such as having a family history of prostate cancer or if you are African American, to help guide our discussion on the pros and cons of screening. Prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer, and it’s possible to live many years before even having side effects associated with the disease. Because of this, the older you are, the less important screening becomes. That means that men between the ages of 40-69 should be having this discussion with their doctor to double check their risk factors and determine if screening makes sense for them.
Hopefully we will have a more accurate way of detecting prostate cancer in the near future. Until then, it’s very important that you know your family history and make your doctor aware if you have relatives who have died from the disease.