Prostate Cancer Screening

Prostate cancer screening means looking for cancer before it causes symptoms. This helps to find cancer at an early stage when it may be easier to treat.

Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer—

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor or nurse will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate. This allows the examiner to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for any lumps or other abnormalities.
  • Prostate specific antigen test (PSA): The PSA test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions that affect the prostate.

As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands produce more PSA than others. PSA levels also can be affected by—

  • Certain medical procedures.
  • Certain medications.
  • An enlarged prostate.
  • A prostate infection.

Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results.

Should I Get Screened for Prostate Cancer?

CDC and other federal agencies follow the prostate cancer screening recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends against PSA-based screening for men that do not have symptoms.

Informed Decision Making

Understanding that men and their doctors may continue to screen for prostate cancer, CDC continues to support informed decision making. Informed decision making occurs when a man—

  • Understands the nature and risk of prostate cancer.
  • Understands the risks of, benefits of, and alternatives to screening.
  • Participates in the decision to be screened or not at a level he desires.
  • Makes a decision consistent with his preferences and values.

CDC has developed materials about prostate cancer screening which are designed to promote discussions between men and physicians and to help men make informed decisions about prostate cancer screening. These materials include—

Prostate Cancer Screening: A Decision Guide

Prostate Cancer Screening: A Decision Guide Adobe PDF file [PDF-369KB] is an easy-to-read booklet, organized in question and answer format, designed to help a man decide whether screening is right for him. The guide discusses the prostate, prostate cancer, and the available screening tests.

Prostate Cancer Screening: A Decision Guide for African Americans

Prostate Cancer Screening: A Decision Guide for African Americans Adobe PDF file [PDF-173KB] targets African-American men. At all ages, African-American men die of prostate cancer more often than other men do. The reasons for the variation among groups are unknown, making it critical that African-American men know the facts about prostate cancer and the available screening tests.

La Detección del Cáncer de Próstata: Una Guía para Hispanos en los Estados Unidos

La Detección del Cáncer de Próstata: Una Guía para Hispanos en los Estados Unidos Adobe PDF file [PDF-595KB] is a 24-page booklet, written in Spanish, that provides basic information and encourages Hispanic men to decide whether screening is the right choice for them.

We need better ways to screen for and treat prostate cancer. Until we make these discoveries, and even when we do, men and their families will turn to trusted health care professionals to help them make informed decisions. CDC encourages all doctors to have open conversations with their patients who have questions about prostate cancer and PSA screening.

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