Why it is Important
Prostate screening provides an indicator of general prostate health by helping to identify several benign, treatable conditions that can become uncomfortable if left untreated. It is also currently the gold standard for promoting the early detection of prostate cancer because the most common symptom of prostate cancer is NO SYMPTOM AT ALL. Abnormal screening is not a diagnosis, but an indicator that follow-up by a Urologic specialist is needed.
How it Works
A full prostate screening includes both the PSA blood test and a physical exam (DRE). PSA is part of the seminal fluid produced by the prostate that naturally leaks into the manís bloodstream. Rising levels of the amount of PSA in the bloodstream can indicate prostate trouble. The PSA blood test measures the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in a man's blood. The Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) is essentially the male equivalent to a clinical breast exam - the Dr. feels for lumps and abnormalities. Click here to learn more about the DRE.
Where to Get Screened
Your primary care physician should offer and provide prostate screening annually once a man reaches 40. NC Insurance Statutes are in place requiring insurance companies to "cover prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests or equivalent tests for the presence of prostate cancer when recommended by a physician." North Carolina is also home to a number of low-cost health clinics and periodic community prostate screening events are periodically hosted and sponsored by some medical facilities throughout the state.
Who Should be Screened
Some organizations suggest beginning annual screening at age 35. Many who have witnessed the impact of aggressive disease agree with this - particularly once they become aware of the strikingly high rate of effective treatment associated with early detection. Since the real benefit to annual screening is to establish what is personally normal for you, this is a proactive approach to enhancing your odds of early detection.
If you have symptoms, regardless of age, you should see a medical professional immediately. For underserved or uninsured men, there are some low cost health clinics and periodic free prostate screenings that may be helpful.
Typically, leading clinicians agree with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for early detection. These currently reflect that all men 40 and older should screen annually if they have a family history of cancer, or are African-American, or are obese, or are taking medication for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) or medications used to treat hair loss, or if they have a baseline Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test result of .6 or higher at age 40.
If a man has a baseline PSA of .6 or higher at 45, he should also begin screening annually. By age 50 ALL men should be screening annually.
The information and opinions expressed on this web site are not an endorsement or recommendation for any medical treatment, product, service or course of action by the Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina or its officers and directors. For medical, legal or other advice, please consult appropriate professionals of your choice.
Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina (PCCNC)
5905 Shamrock Road
Research Triangle Park, NC 27713