Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in men in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among the same demographic. Spotting it early is essential to the treatment process. More than half of all cases annually are diagnosed in men over the age of 65, and the general recommendation is for men to begin regular screenings at age 50. But is it ever too soon to get screened for prostate cancer? Not for certain people, professionals say.
When to Get Screened for Prostate Cancer
Like all forms of cancer, prostate cancer is most effectively treated the sooner it’s detected. When the disease is caught in the early stages, before it has metastasized and spread to other areas of the body, the five-year survival rate for men is almost 100%.
Conversely, after it has metastasized, that survival rate drops to just 30%. These are frightening statistics and lead many to wonder when they should begin screenings. Understandably, many would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to addressing a serious health condition.
The earliest recommended age to begin screening is at 40 years old if you have a family history of prostate cancer. If you’re African American, it’s recommended that you begin screenings at the age of 45, whether or not you have a family history of the disease. This is because, for unknown reasons, African American men are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer than those in other races.
These are general guidelines for healthy men who do not exhibit symptoms of the disease before testing. If you do exhibit symptoms, talk to your doctor right away to see if screening for prostate cancer is recommended.
Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
If you are younger than the recommended age guidelines noted above, but experience signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, it’s important to seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Frequent urination
- Blood in the semen
- Pain when sitting
- Change in bowel habits
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in the urine
- Pain during urination
- Trouble emptying the bladder
- Weak, interrupted, or strenuous urine flow
Other symptoms appear as the cancer spreads, which is what makes it so important to seek care right away if you experience any of the early warning signs.
What is Prostate Cancer Screening?
If your doctor recommends that you get screened for prostate cancer, you will likely undergo one of two procedures. The first, and most common, screening is non-invasive, quick, and straightforward. It’s known as a digital rectal exam or a DRE.
During this procedure, your doctor will use their finger to examine your prostate by inserting it into your rectum. They can evaluate your prostate for any potential abnormalities with this procedure by observing the texture, shape, and size of the area.
The second procedure is the prostate-specific antigen test, also known as the PSA. This is another simple, non-invasive procedure that is done via a blood test. The test analyzes your blood for the level of PSA that is present. If your levels are high, further testing may be recommended.
The Bottom Line
While the right time to begin screenings for prostate cancer is ultimately a decision that should be reached between you and your doctor, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. Since screenings are simple, non-invasive, and virtually painless, there’s nothing to fear when going to the doctor and asking to be tested. It could save your life.