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Early Detection Saves Lives: Screening and PSA Test

Prostate cancer is most treatable when it's detected early. That's why it's so important to talk to your doctor about getting tested. Screenings like the PSA blood test can help detect prostate cancer at an early stage often before there are any signs and symptoms. Get tested. It may save your life.

A man sitting in a chair with his arm in a tourniquet for a blood test.

The importance of early detection for prostate cancer 

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men, but early detection can make a significant difference in treatment outcomes and quality of life. When caught in its early stages, prostate cancer is highly treatable, and patients have a wider range of options available to them. This is why regular screening and early detection are crucial for men's health.

Here are some important benefits of early prostate cancer detection:

  • Better treatment options
    • When prostate cancer is detected early, patients may be eligible for less invasive treatments, such as active surveillance, focal therapy, or minimally invasive surgery.
    • Early-stage prostate cancer may not require immediate treatment, allowing patients to avoid potential side effects and complications.
  • Improved survival rates
    • The 5-year survival rate for localized prostate cancer (cancer that hasn't spread beyond the prostate) is nearly 100%.
    • Early detection and treatment can prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, significantly improving long-term survival rates.
  • Enhanced quality of life
    • Early treatment of prostate cancer can help preserve urinary and sexual function.
    • Minimally invasive treatments often result in faster recovery times and fewer side effects compared to more advanced treatments.
    • Catching prostate cancer early can reduce the emotional burden and uncertainty associated with a later-stage diagnosis.

Regular prostate cancer screening, typically through a combination of PSA blood tests and digital rectal exams (DRE), can help detect the disease in its early stages. Men should discuss their individual risk factors and screening recommendations with their healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate approach.

A Black man sitting at a table holding his arm after receiving a blood draw for PSA test

When should I get tested for prostate cancer?

Detecting prostate cancer early gives you the best chance of living longer. In fact, when it is caught early, the 5-year survival rate is over 99 percent.

All men should talk to their doctor about screening for prostate cancer beginning at about age 45. But some men with higher risk factors should start earlier. If you are Black or have a family history of prostate or other cancers, talk to your doctor about getting tested at age 40.

About the prostate cancer screening test

Routine prostate cancer screening starts with a PSA blood test and may include a rectal exam. Both are quick and simple. 

A Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated for other reasons.

A Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) is a physical exam that is done when a doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.

Mike Rowe gets a prostate exam

A man sitting with his doctor who is holding a clipboard

What your PSA test results mean

If you've had a PSA blood test, it may be difficult to understand what your test results mean. Learn more about the test and find the latest guidance on what is considered a normal PSA range and what may be considered a dangerous PSA level.

How accurate are prostate cancer screening tests?

No test is right all the time, and that is true of the PSA blood test and DRE. The PSA test is better at suggesting that small cancers are present, especially those toward the front or sides of the prostate gland, or deep within it. But the DRE can sometimes suggest cancers in men with normal PSA levels.

That is why both the PSA test and the DRE are usually performed.

Early detection of prostate cancer

Watch prostate cancer experts Dr. Lowentritt and Dr. Siegel in this video discuss screening and diagnosis.

What additional tests may be needed?

A biopsy will be needed to confirm whether prostate cancer is present or not. There are additional tests that can give your doctor more information on how to determine the probability of both finding cancer during a biopsy and determining how aggressive that cancer is likely to be.

None of these tests are conclusive on their own. When performed in addition to a PSA test, DRE, and a biopsy, these tests can provide each patient with more information about their specific cancer and can aid in both the diagnosis and decision on treatment.

Information related to prostate cancer testing

Getting tested for prostate cancer is the first step in expanding your knowledge. Learn more about your risk for prostate cancer and how it is diagnosed.