Science has made tremendous progress in detecting and treating prostate cancer (PC). Advancements have led to more people surviving PC, but when it comes to our prostate health, early detection through screening may mean the difference between life or death.
Here's what you need to know about when to talk to your doctor about screening for PC.
PROSTATE CANCER AGE BENCHMARKS
Early prostate cancer is hard to notice because you might not feel any symptoms. If you are feeling symptoms, it could mean the PC has reached an advanced stage. That’s why for most men, screenings are recommended about every two years. It is important to talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
If you're experiencing pain or discomfort, don't ignore it — speak up! You know your body better than anyone else. If you think something is wrong, you have to Talk That Talk. And your doctor might request a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test or additional screening methods.
Remember, if they don't listen, talk your talk and find a second opinion.
GO GET SCREENED EARLY. GET SCREENED OFTEN. DON'T BE AFRAID IF SOMETHING IS GOING WRONG, IF YOU'RE NOT FEELING RIGHT. GO GET IT CHECKED OUT. THAT'S WHAT WE SHOULD DO.
Shannon Sharpe, Pro Football Hall of Famer, Host of Undisputed, Talk That Talk Ambassador, Prostate Cancer Survivor
Prostate cancer (PC) screening offers the best chance of getting ahead of it. How we screen for PC might differ based on age, health level, or family history, but the first step in screening for prostate cancer is a conversation with your doctor.
The second step might not be as complicated as you think. In fact, your doctor may recommend a simple blood test, called the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, that can be added to your routine physical.
A Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. This is generally performed as part of a routine prostate cancer (PC) screening. If your PSA levels are elevated, it can be an indicator of PC or other prostate issues.
When it comes to your PSA test results, there are levels to it:
It's important to remember that a PSA test is a tool to detect PC. The test alone can't tell you if you have prostate cancer.
If you Talk That Talk with your doctor about changes in your PSA levels, it will help you understand what it means for you and if you need additional tests.
After your blood test, if your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) results are above 3.0 ng/mL, don't panic — it doesn't necessarily mean you have prostate cancer (PC). There are several reasons why your PSA levels might be elevated, including:
- Prostatitis: an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia: an enlarged prostate gland
- Urinary tract infection (UTI): an infection of the urinary system
Your doctor could advise you to repeat a PSA test or suggest alternative tests. Whenever possible, follow your doctor's instructions, and if they recommend a wait time before repeating the PSA test, it might be to allow your PSA level to drop to normal levels.
When we Talk That Talk with our doctor, we help inform our next steps.
SELF-ADVOCATE TO SEE A UROLOGIST
Your primary care doctor will perform a PSA blood test and possibly a digital rectal exam (DRE). However, a urologist is a doctor who is trained in conditions affecting the urinary system, like prostate cancer. The urologist will be able to diagnose and treat further aspects of your prostate health.
If your PSA level is elevated, talk to your doctor and get a referral to see a urologist. When we know our needs, we should speak up and advocate for them.
Here's what your urologist will probably do to confirm any presence of PC:
- Confirm your PSA levels — this might require another PSA screening
- Check for unusual lumps and bumps with a DRE
- Perform an ultrasound to examine your prostate for changes in size or shape
- Take a biopsy — a short procedure that includes removing a small sample of prostate tissue and testing it for cancer cells