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Do prostate cancer screenings do more harm than good?

Patient speaks with his doctor
Blog

/ by UK HealthCare

It’s likely you’ve heard a lot of debate surrounding whether or not you should get screened for prostate cancer. You might have even heard that screening can do more harm than good.

Dr. Stephen Strup of the UK Markey Cancer Center is the chair of the Department of Urologic Surgery, and he’s here to answer some common questions and concerns about prostate screenings.

Who should be screened for prostate cancer?

Dr. Strup recommends healthy men between the ages of 55 and 70 to be screened.

Men who have one or more family members with prostate cancer or who are African American are at greater risk for the disease and should highly consider being screened while they are in their 50s.

What does the screening consist of?

The screening for prostate cancer starts with a blood test known as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. A rectal exam is usually performed by your doctor as well.

A PSA screening can help detect cancer early on, which makes it easier to treat and cure if you are diagnosed in the early stage of cancer. Typically, the PSA levels that rise too fast over time or are much higher than expected cause a higher concern for potential prostate cancer.

Sometimes a man’s PSA can be elevated even though no cancer is present. This could be because of certain medications, an enlarged prostate or a prostate infection.

What happens next?

If your PSA levels are elevated, your doctor might recommend more blood tests, additional imaging or a biopsy.

If further testing reveals cancer, Dr. Strup says it’s time for a discussion: Is this a cancer that just needs to be monitored, or is this a cancer that needs to be treated? It’s important to talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of pursuing treatment.

Some prostate cancers are slow-moving and pose little risk of extending beyond the prostate gland. For more threatening cancers, there are effective treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy. Treatments can include adverse side effects, including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction or bowel dysfunction.

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