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When Should You Get a Prostate Screening and What to Expect

3 minutes to read


Prostate problems are common in older men. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or an enlarged prostate, is the most common prostate condition, causing urinary troubles like frequent urination and a weakened urine stream.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, after skin cancer. However, most prostate cancers aren't deadly, and this can make it hard for some men to decide whether to undergo a prostate exam. Here's what you need to know about prostate screening and when to consider it.

Who Should Get a Prostate Screening, and When?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) stresses that before you decide to undergo a prostate cancer screening, you should fully discuss the risks, benefits, and uncertainties of the screening with your doctor. The age at which this discussion should take place, according to the ACS, is:

  • Age 40 for men who are at a very high risk of prostate cancer, which are those who have more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before the age of 65.
  • Age 45 for men who are at high risk of prostate cancer, including African American men and men who have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65.
  • Age 50 for men who are at an average risk of prostate cancer and who are expected to live for at least 10 years.

What to Expect During a Prostate Screening

A prostate exam typically includes two main tests: A digital rectal exam, or DRE, and the prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA. While neither of these tests can confirm prostate cancer, they can reveal signs of prostate problems that may require further testing.

During a digital rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to check the size of the prostate and feel for lumps and other abnormalities. The DRE may be uncomfortable, but it's not painful and lasts around a minute.

The PSA test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA, a protein made by the prostate gland. High PSA levels indicate a prostate problem, but whether more tests will be recommended depends on a number of factors, including the actual PSA level and the man's age, ethnicity, weight, family history, and medical history.

The Risks and Benefits of a Prostate Exam

According to the Centers for Disease Control, most prostate cancers grow slowly, or they don't grow at all. The goal of screening is to find prostate cancer that may be at high risk of spreading if it's not treated.

The benefits of prostate cancer screening include:

  • Lowering the risk of death from prostate cancer in some men.
  • Knowing for sure that you have prostate cancer if it's something you prefer to know.

The risks of screening for prostate cancer include:

  • False positive results. Older men are more likely to have false positive results, which can cause undue worry.
  • Complications from a biopsy, including infection and blood in the semen or ejaculate.
  • Over-diagnosis. Prostate cancer screening may find prostate cancer that would not have spread or even caused symptoms. Men with this type of prostate cancer who receive treatment will not benefit from it, and treatment may cause complications, including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and bowel problems.

Prevention is Key

Whether you're in your 30s or pushing 60, prevention is your best defense against prostate problems. A healthy diet and regular exercise will go a long way toward preventing disease, including problems with the prostate.

A daily supplement like Prostavol promotes prostate health at any age and helps reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your prostate or are experiencing symptoms like blood in the urine or frequent or painful urination.




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