Screening Guidelines

Doctor with patient( — Screening refers to testing to find a disease such as
cancer in people who do not have symptoms of that disease. For some types of
cancer, screening can help find cancers in an early stage when they are more
easily cured. Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of
prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Another way to find prostate
cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which your doctor inserts a gloved
finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. If the results of either one
of these tests are abnormal, further testing is needed to see if there is a
cancer. If you have routine yearly exams and either one of these test results
becomes abnormal, then any cancer you might have has likely been found at an
early, more treatable stage. The DRE and the PSA test are both discussed in more
detail later in this document.

Since the use of early detection tests for prostate cancer became fairly
common (about 1990), the prostate cancer death rate has dropped. But it isn’t
yet clear if this drop is a direct result of screening or caused by something
else, like improvements in treatment.

Unfortunately, there are limits to the current screening methods. Neither the
PSA test nor the DRE is 100% accurate. Abnormal results of these tests don’t
always mean that cancer is present, and normal results don’t always mean that
there is no cancer. Uncertain or false test results could cause confusion and
anxiety. Some men might have a prostate biopsy (which carries its own small
risks, along with discomfort) when cancer is not present, while others might get
a false sense of security from normal test results when cancer is actually