By W. Glover Little, MD

June is Men’s Health Month. So the question is should a man have a prostate screening test? As a board certified urologist with Rutherford Urology my professional opinion is that the test saves lives. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men other than skin cancer, and it’s the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Prostate screening tests include a physical exam as well as a blood test. During the physical exam, the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to examine the prostate, which is adjacent to the rectum. A blood sample is drawn from a vein in your arm and analyzed for PSA, which stands for Prostate-Specific Antigen, a protein produced exclusively by prostate cells. It is normal for a small amount of PSA to be found in your bloodstream. However, if a higher than normal level is found, it may be an indication of prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer.

Besides the PSA number itself, we will consider a number of other factors to evaluate your PSA scores:
-Your age
-The size of your prostate gland
-How quickly your PSA levels are changing
-Whether you’re taking medications that affect PSA measurements, such as finasteride (Propecia, Proscar), dutasteride (Avodart) and even some herbal supplements

Screening should begin at age 50 unless you have certain risk factors, including being a black male or having a blood relative who has had prostate cancer. If a family member was diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk of the disease is greater than that of the average American man.

In the early stages of prostate cancer, there are no symptoms. If it’s caught early, it is treatable and potentially curable. Thus, the ability to detect it at a treatable stage is dependent on screenings.

Prostate cancer can be treated by many different means. Sometimes surveillance of prostate cancer is carried out. The treatment is based on the risks versus the benefits for each individual patient.