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When Should I Get Tested For Prostate Cancer

Positron Emission Tomography Scan

Should I Get Tested for Prostate Cancer?

A PET scan is similar to a bone scan, in that a slightly radioactive substance is injected into the blood, which can then be detected with a special camera. But PET scans use different tracers that collect mainly in cancer cells. The most common tracer for standard PET scans is FDG, which is a type of sugar. Unfortunately, this type of PET scan isnt very useful in finding prostate cancer cells in the body.

However, newer tracers, such as fluciclovine F18, sodium fluoride F18, and choline C11, have been found to be better at detecting prostate cancer cells.

Other newer tracers, such as Ga 68 PSMA-11 and 18F-DCFPyl , attach to prostate-specific membrane antigen , a protein that is often found in large amounts on prostate cancer cells. Tests using these types of tracers are sometimes referred to as PSMA PET scans.

These newer types of PET scans are most often used if its not clear if prostate cancer has spread. For example, one of these tests might be done if the results of a bone scan arent clear, or if a man has a rising PSA level after initial treatment but its not clear where the cancer is in the body.

The pictures from a PET scan arent as detailed as MRI or CT scan images, but they can often show areas of cancer anywhere in the body. Some machines can do a PET scan and either an MRI or a CT scan at the same time, which can give more detail about areas that show up on the PET scan.

American Cancer Society Recommendations For Prostate Cancer Early Detection

The American Cancer Society recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. The decision should be made after getting information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information. The discussion about screening should take place at:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age .
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk .

After this discussion, men who want to be screened should get the prostate-specific antigen blood test. The digital rectal exam may also be done as a part of screening.

If, after this discussion, a man is unable to decide if testing is right for him, the screening decision can be made by the health care provider, who should take into account the mans general health preferences and values.

If no prostate cancer is found as a result of screening, the time between future screenings depends on the results of the PSA blood test:

  • Men who choose to be tested who have a PSA of less than 2.5 ng/mL may only need to be retested every 2 years.
  • Screening should be done yearly for men whose PSA level is 2.5 ng/mL or higher.

Symptoms Of Prostate Cancer

Symptoms of prostate cancer do not usually appear until the prostate is large enough to affect the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis .

When this happens, you may notice things like:

  • an increased need to pee
  • straining while you pee
  • a feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied

These symptoms should not be ignored, but they do not mean you have prostate cancer.

It’s more likely they’re caused by something else, such as prostate enlargement.

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Screening Information For Prostate Cancer

Screening for prostate cancer is done to find evidence of cancer in otherwise healthy adults. Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer:

  • Digital rectal examination . A DRE is a test in which the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the surface of the prostate through the bowel wall for any irregularities.

  • PSA blood test. There is controversy about using the PSA test to look for prostate cancer in people with no symptoms of the disease. On the one hand, the PSA test is useful for detecting early-stage prostate cancer, especially in those with many risk factors, which helps some get the treatment they need before the cancer grows and spreads. On the other hand, PSA screening may find very-slow-growing prostate cancers that would never threaten someone’s life. As a result, screening for prostate cancer using PSA may lead to treatments that are not needed, which can cause side effects and seriously affect a person’s quality of life.

ASCO recommends that people with no symptoms of prostate cancer and who are expected to live less than 10 years do not receive PSA screening. For those expected to live longer than 10 years, ASCO recommends that they talk with their doctor to find out if the test is appropriate for them.

Other organizations have different recommendations for screening:

How Is Prostate Cancer Treated

Should I Be Tested For Prostate Cancer?

For many men with prostate cancer, treatment is not immediately necessary.

If the cancer is at an early stage and not causing symptoms, your doctor may suggest either “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance”.

The best option depends on your age and overall health. Both options involve carefully monitoring your condition.

Some cases of prostate cancer can be cured if treated in the early stages.

Treatments include:

Some cases are only diagnosed at a later stage, when the cancer has spread.

If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body and cannot be cured, treatment is focused on prolonging life and relieving symptoms.

All treatment options carry the risk of significant side effects, including erectile dysfunction and urinary symptoms, such as needing to use the toilet more urgently or more often.

For this reason, some men choose to delay treatment until there’s a risk the cancer might spread.

Newer treatments, such as high-intensity focused ultrasound and cryotherapy, aim to reduce these side effects.

Some hospitals may offer them as an alternative to surgery, radiotherapy or hormone therapy.

But the long-term effectiveness of these treatments is not known yet.

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When To Get A Prostate Cancer Screening

A prostate screening can help your doctor find prostate cancer early, but youll need to decide if the benefits of the exam outweigh the risks. Have a discussion with your doctor about prostate cancer screenings.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that men ages 55 to 69 decide for themselves whether to undergo a prostate-specific antigen screening test, after talking it over with their doctor.

They recommend against screening for men at or above the age of 70.

The American Cancer Society strongly recommends that no one be screened without discussion of the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening.

They give these specific recommendations for the date at which these discussions with a healthcare provider should take place:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age .
  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk .

You should also speak with your doctor about a prostate exam if youre experiencing symptoms of a prostate problem, such as frequent or painful urination or blood in your urine.

After this discussion, if you decide to get a prostate cancer screening, the ACS and the American Urologic Association recommend getting a prostate-specific antigen blood test.

Use In Men Who Might Have Prostate Cancer

The PSA blood test is used mainly to screen for prostate cancer in men without symptoms. Its also one of the first tests done in men who have symptoms that might be caused by prostate cancer.

PSA in the blood is measured in units called nanograms per milliliter . The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up, but there is no set cutoff point that can tell for sure if a man does or doesnt have prostate cancer. Many doctors use a PSA cutoff point of 4 ng/mL or higher when deciding if a man might need further testing, while others might recommend it starting at a lower level, such as 2.5 or 3.

  • Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 ng/mL of blood. Still, a level below 4 is not a guarantee that a man doesnt have cancer.
  • Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer.
  • If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is over 50%.

If your PSA level is high, you might need further tests to look for prostate cancer.

To learn more about how the PSA test is used to look for cancer, including factors that can affect PSA levels, special types of PSA tests, and what the next steps might be if you have an abnormal PSA level, see Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer.

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What Is A Prostate Cancer Screening Like

A prostate cancer screening can be conducted in one of two ways. The first, a PSA test, is a simple blood draw. The second is a brief rectal exam that takes less than 30 seconds to perform.

“For a screening, if a patient comes and asks for a prostate cancer screening, it begins with a blood test,” said Ehdaie. “It’s a small vial of blood, and then a medical history and physical examination. In the physical examination there will be a digital rectal examination in which the physician’s finger is inserted into the rectum to feel the prostate.”

Risks And Benefits Of Psa Test

When to Get Tested for Prostate Cancer

There are benefits of having a PSA test which include early detection of prostate cancer. The earlier cancer is detected, the better the chance of a cure.

There are also risks involved. These include:

  • Worry about false-positive results caused by elevated PSA levels from something other than prostate cancer. A raised PSA result could be from something benign
  • Invasive, stressful, expensive or time-consuming follow-up tests
  • Stress or anxiety caused by knowing you have a slow-growing prostate cancer that doesnt need treatment
  • Deciding to have surgery, radiation or other treatments that cause side effects that are more harmful than untreated cancer

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Men: Cancer Screening Exams By Age

These exams are for men at average risk of cancer.

Take this checklist to your next doctors appointment. Your doctor can help you develop a more tailored screening plan if needed.

These exams are for men at average risk of cancer. If you believe you may be more likely to develop cancer because of your personal or family medical history, visit our screening guidelines page to learn about exams for men at increased risk.

Ages 40-49

  • Beginning at age 40, you should speak with your doctor about the benefits and limitations of prostate screening.
  • If you choose prostate cancer screening, you should get a digital rectal exam and PSA test every year starting at age 45 to check for prostate cancer if you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer.

Ages 50-75

Age 76 and older

If youre age 76 to 85, your doctor can help you decide if you should continue screening. MD Anderson does not recommend cancer screening for men age 85 and older.

All Ages

Speak with you doctor about cancer screening exams for lung and skin cancers. Exams are available for those at increased risk.

Regardless of your age, practice awareness. This means you should be familiar with your body so youll notice changes and report them to your doctor without delay.

Other Factors That Influence Psa Levels

The PSA blood test alone cannot diagnose prostate cancer. It is possible, although rare, to have prostate cancer without raised PSA levels in the blood. A higher-than-normal PSA level doesnt automatically indicate prostate cancer either. A high PSA level is due to cancer in around one in three cases.

PSA levels can be raised by other factors, including:

  • , also known as benign prostatic enlargement .

For this reason, the PSA blood test isnt used in isolation when checking for prostate cancer.

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Pros And Cons Of The Psa Test

Pros:

  • it may reassure you if the test result is normal
  • it can find early signs of cancer, meaning you can get treated early
  • PSA testing may reduce your risk of dying if you do have cancer

Cons:

  • it can miss cancer and provide false reassurance
  • it may lead to unnecessary worry and medical tests when there’s no cancer
  • it cannot tell the difference between slow-growing and fast-growing cancers
  • it may make you worry by finding a slow-growing cancer that may never cause any problems

The Test Is Often Not Needed

Should I Be Tested For Prostate Cancer?

Most men with high PSAs dont have prostate cancer. Their high PSAs might be due to:

  • An enlarged prostate gland.
  • Recent sexual activity.
  • A recent, long bike ride.

Up to 25% of men with high PSAs may have prostate cancer, depending on age and PSA level. But most of these cancers do not cause problems. It is common for older men to have some cancer cells in their prostate glands. These cancers are usually slow to grow. They are not likely to spread beyond the prostate. They usually dont cause symptoms, or death.

Studies show that routine PSA tests of 1,000 men ages 55 to 69 prevent one prostate cancer death. But the PSA also has risks.

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Whats Wrong With Psa Testing

There are concerns about a PSA tests real ability to detect prostate cancer. About 3 out of 4 men with high PSA will not have cancer and about 1 in 7 prostate cancers can be missed.

Most men with high PSA tests will undergo a biopsy, which is a painful and invasive procedure. There are also concerns that many prostate cancers detected by PSA will never cause any problems, leading to unnecessary treatment and worry.

Referrals From Your Gp

The symptoms of prostate cancer can be very similar to some other prostate problems, so it can be very difficult for GPs to decide who may have a suspected cancer and who may have something much more minor that will go away on its own.

There are particular prostate symptoms that mean your GP should refer you to a specialist straight away. The National Cancer Control Programme has produced guidelines for GPs in Ireland. The guidelines help GPs decide which patients need to be seen urgently by a specialist called a urologist. A urologist is a doctor who specialises in treating disorders of the urinary tract, including the kidney,, bladder and prostate.

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Should You Know Your Psa Level

Instead of a national screening programme, there is an informed choice programme, called prostate cancer risk management, for healthy men aged 50 or over who ask their GP about PSA testing. It aims to give men good information on the pros and cons of a PSA test.

If you’re a man aged 50 or over and decide to have your PSA levels tested after talking to your GP, they can arrange for it to be carried out free on the NHS.

If results show you have a raised level of PSA, your GP may suggest further tests.

Should I Have A Prostate Cancer Screening Test

Prostate Cancer: What You Should Know

Routine testing for prostate cancer in all men without symptoms is not recommended in New Zealand at present. Being tested for prostate cancer is your choice. Learning about the pros and cons of prostate testing can help you decide if it is right for you.

To help you decide if a prostate check is right for you, the Ministry of Health has developed the Kupe website. It will help you understand the risks, benefits and implications of prostate testing, so you can have an informed conversation with your doctor.

If you are unsure about whether you need to get tested for prostate cancer, contact your GP for a discussion on the risks and benefits of testing.

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Guidelines For Urgent Referral

According to the NCCP guidelines, you should ideally get an appointment within 4 weeks if you have certain symptoms. The symptoms are:

  • Abnormalities in your prostate that your GP can feel during a rectal examination
  • A PSA test that is considered high for your age
  • A borderline PSA test, followed by a repeat test 6 weeks later that shows the level is rising
  • A raised PSA reading, together with other symptoms that may be linked to prostate cancer

The symptoms that the guidelines suggest GPs should also consider are:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Low back pain or other bone pain
  • Blood in the urine
  • Problems getting an erection

The guidelines say that your GP should offer to do a rectal examination and a PSA test if you have these symptoms.

What Age Should Men Be Screened For Prostate Cancer

The Prostate Cancer Foundation recommends that Black men or men with a family history of cancer be screened at the age of 40 otherwise, the organization advises getting screened at 45. The American Cancer Society recommends that men at “average risk” be screened at the age of 50, while “men at high risk of developing prostate cancer” like Black men and men who have a first-degree relative, like a father or brother, who were diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65, be screened at 45. Men at “even higher risk” should be screened at 40.

In 2018, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued a recommendation advising men to start talking about screenings with their doctors at the age of 55.

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