As with any other form of cancer, the key to saving lives and faster recovery for prostate cancer patients lies in the early detection of the disease. To detect prostate cancer early on, a screening test is done before the symptoms show up. Screening helps detect cancer early when they are likely to be easier to treat.
Screening aims to look for the signs of cancer before the development of any symptoms or signs. If cancer is detected during screening, it is mostly at the earlier stage. This in turn means the success rate is high for the treatment of the disease. The overall goals of prostate cancer screening can be listed down as follows:
- Promote a proactive approach to screening based on the age group (typically 50+), those with a family history (for men over 40), and also based on the risk/benefit factor for those at an advanced age.
- Bring down the mortality rate or eliminate the chance of death from cancer
- Bring down the number of cancer cases
Prostate Cancer Screening
Screening is done to check for cancer in otherwise healthy men. Two commonly used tests for screening of prostate cancer are as follows:
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): This test is done by the doctor by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into a man’s rectum. The doctor feels the surface of the prostate through the bowel wall for any irregularities.
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test: The cells in the prostate gland (both non-cancerous and cancerous cells) make a protein which is known as prostate-specific antigen or PSA. According to medical experts, the chances of having prostate cancer is directly linked to the PSA level in blood. The higher the PSA level in blood, higher are the chances of having prostate cancer. PSA test comes handy for detecting prostate cancer at an early stage which makes it possible to treat the cancer before it further grows and spreads. Also, PSA screenings can detect conditions like BPH which is not cancer including prostate cancers growing at a very slow rate which does not threaten the patient’s life. Hence, there is a controversy about the effectiveness of PSA test to detect prostate cancer in men with no symptoms. Screening for prostate cancer with this test may sometimes result in surgery and other medical procedures which can be done without. This in turn can cause side effects that’s affects the patient’s quality of life.
Recently, a 44 year old gentleman visited my clinic with complaints of difficulty while urinating and blood stained urine. Upon consultation, it was known that he had a family history of prostate cancer. Further to a clinical examination, PSA test, and MRI he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Thankfully, since we caught it an an early stage, a complete recovery was possible. This highlights the importance of promoting awareness on the risks, signs and symptoms as well as screening for Prostate Cancer.
It is not always easy to predict the chances of having prostate cancer in men with no symptoms of the disease. Hence, it is always recommended to get a screening done for early detection. Men should discuss their conditions with doctors to test for any personal risk for prostate cancer and work together towards making an informed decision.