Screening for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer patients almost always have an excellent prognosis if their cancer is caught early. As a result, experts recommend that men speak with their doctors to develop a plan for regular screening.

Screening guidelines will differ according to a man’s individual risk factors.

Prostate cancer screening tests

There are two methods of screening for prostate cancer: the PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam.

PSA test

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the primary screening method for prostate cancer. It measures the level of PSA, a substance made by the prostate. Men who have prostate cancer may have an increased amount of PSA in their blood. However, an elevated PSA level alone doesn’t mean that you have prostate cancer. Other conditions can elevate PSA levels, such as infection or inflammation of the prostate.

Washington University prostate cancer experts at Siteman pioneered the PSA test and have successfully developed the free-PSA test as a way of detecting cancer more accurately.

Digital rectal exam

During a digital rectal exam, the doctor or nurse inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to check for an enlarged prostate, lumps or abnormal areas.

What are the screening guidelines for men of average risk?

If your doctor determines that you are at average risk for prostate cancer, you will be advised to begin PSA screening at age 45. Your doctor will then recommend a follow-up screening schedule based on your initial reading and your personal preferences.

What are the screening guidelines for men of above-average risk?

African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are at a higher risk of developing the disease. These men are advised to begin regular PSA screening at age 40.