How Helpful Are Prostate Cancer Screenings?

No one looks forward to an annual trip to the doctor, especially when it includes a prostate exam. However, these screenings play a crucial role in detecting prostate cancer, especially when you’re at risk of developing this disease. 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. In most cases, it grows slowly and causes few symptoms in its earliest stages. Because of this, regular screenings can be key in detecting a problem as quickly as possible — or before it can even arise.

So how do you know if you need a screening and whether it’s worth the hassle? Our team at Urology Associates of Southeastern North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina, specializes in men’s health. They shared these insights into prostate cancer screenings and how they can help.

How prostate cancer screenings work

There are a lot of jokes surrounding prostate exams, and the misinformation could even prevent some men from getting regular screenings. The subject matter is digital rectal exams (DRE), where your doctor physically checks your prostate, which sits just below the bladder in front of your rectum. 

However, when it comes to prostate cancer, a PSA screening could provide more accurate insights.

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test looks for a specific protein made by cells in your prostate. These levels appear in your blood in units measured by nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). When these numbers increase, it can indicate higher chances of prostate cancer and determine if you need additional testing. Your PSA results can also play a role in the frequency of your prostate cancer screenings.

While a PSA blood test is typically more effective at finding prostate cancer, a DRE sometimes detects cancer in men with normal PSA levels. We make personalized recommendations on which testing is best for you.

When to get your prostate checked

Several factors come into play with prostate cancer screenings. 

Generally speaking, you should begin PSA testing when you turn 50. If your results are less than 2.5 ng/mL, your doctor could recommend retesting every two years. With numbers higher than 2.5 ng/mL, we often recommend annual PSA screenings. You can usually discontinue your screenings after turning 70.

We often recommend earlier screenings for men with higher chances of developing prostate cancer. Your prostate cancer risks increase if you’re African American or have a brother or father diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially if they were younger than 65. 

We could start doing your prostate cancer screenings at 40 or 45 years of age in these cases.

You should also schedule a prostate screening if you have blood in your urine or frequent or painful urination.

Understanding your results

It’s important to note that having high PSA levels doesn’t guarantee that you have prostate cancer. Certain factors can raise these numbers, including:

Similarly, you can also have lower PSA levels, even with prostate cancer, because of certain medications or dietary supplements.

Based on your PSA results, we can help guide you through the next steps to protect your overall health.

To learn more about prostate screenings or to schedule your PSA test, contact our office by calling 910-421-2505 or requesting an appointment online today.

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