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Prostate Health: Would You Treat the Cancer?

When should you begin prostate screenings?
Historically, annual screening for prostate cancer starts around age 50 (earlier for patients with a family history of prostate cancer) and the screening consisted of a digital rectal examination (DRE) to evaluate the prostate, as well as checking a blood test called the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA). Recently these recommendations have been changing.

Although screening for prostate cancer with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) can reduce death from prostate cancer, researchers have recently found that the actual reduction of risk is actually very small. Interestingly, there is currently some concern in the medical community that the complications from the treatment of most prostate cancers are actually more harmful than the benefits that come from treating cancer.

Because there are significant risks related to the treatment of prostate cancer (urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, bowel problems), factors should be discussed between the provider and the patient. You should work with your healthcare provider to decide if screening is right for you. As you are deciding, think about how likely it is that you will get prostate cancer. Black men, as well as men who have a brother or father with the disease, are more likely than other men to get it. For men with a high risk of prostate cancer, screening might be a good idea.

Why would or wouldn’t you be screened?
Think, too, about how you feel about the possible benefits and harms of being screened. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to know if I have prostate cancer, even if cancer might never do me any harm?
  • Would I be treated if I learned that I had prostate cancer?
  • How do I feel about the risks of being treated for prostate cancer?
  • How do I feel about the risks of getting a deadly or aggressive form of prostate cancer?
  • Would I be willing to accept a high risk of side effects from treatment in return for a small chance of living longer?

If you have any questions or concerns about prostate cancer or anything else, we would love to have you make an appointment come talk to us so we can work with you to find the best ways to optimize your health.

Jared Ricabaugh, FNP-BC

About the author

Jared Ricabaugh, FNP-BC

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