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Prostate Cancer Screening: Making Your Decision

Should you be screened yearly for prostate cancer, even if you have no symptoms? Experts disagree. Below are some factors to think about as you make a decision.

Husband and wife talking.

Pros

  • Many experts believe that screening saves lives. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Screening is the best way to find prostate cancer in its early stages. When found early, prostate cancer can nearly always be successfully treated. When it is found at a more advanced stage, the outlook often is not as good.

  • The younger you are, the more likely it is that early detection of cancer will add years to your life.

Cons

  • Screening tests show how likely cancer is. But they are not perfect. So some of the biopsies done based on these tests will be unnecessary. Doing a biopsy has risks, such as bleeding and infection. Screening tests may also miss some prostate cancers.

  • Prostate cancers are often slow-growing. Many never become life-threatening and never need treatment. but, there is no test to tell for sure if a man's cancer needs treatment. If you find out you have cancer, you may feel you need to treat it, even if tests show that it’s probably not a dangerous cancer. Prostate cancer treatments have side effects that can affect quality of life, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. So in some cases, treating the cancer causes more problems than not treating it.

Weighing Your Options

Before making a decision about screening, talk to your doctor. Ask any questions you have about testing. Talking to your partner, friends, or family members may also be helpful. Things to consider include:

  • Whether you have risk factors.

  • Your age, overall health, and life expectancy.

  • Your feelings about treatment. If you found out that you had prostate cancer, would you want to have it treated?

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sarah, RN, MPH
Last Review Date: 12/5/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.