Cancer Detection

Screening for Prostate Cancer

Each year approximately 900,000 men across the globe are diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Though prostate cancer is more easily cured when diagnosed at early stages, it may not be curable, particularly if cancer has spread to other areas of the body, which is often fatal.

Prostate cancer can be first suspected at the noting of high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.  PSA is a protein that is normally secreted and disposed of by the prostate gland.  Men with prostate cancer often have an elevated blood level of PSA. The higher the PSA level, the more likely he has prostate cancer.  Annual PSA screening has been recommended for men over 50 or earlier for those at high risk.

However, some advisory groups now caution against using the PSA testing to screen for prostate cancer.  There are a number of limitations and potential harms of the test to the human body. First, some studies show that between 17 to 50 percent of the tumors detected by the PSA test grow so slowly that they will never cause symptoms.  Nonetheless, these patients will be exposed to unnecessary treatment as well as potential side effects of the treatment.  In addition, the PSA test may give false positive results due to other conditions such as an enlarged prostate.  The misdiagnosis often leads to anxiety in patients and additional medical procedures.  On the other hand, the false negative results from such a test could give some men a false sense of security and delay treatment.

If you are considering a PSA test for prostate cancer screening, make sure to have a thorough discussion first with your doctor about the potential benefits and harms of the test to you.  It is important for you to make an informed decision on whether to take the test by taking all factors into consideration.