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 Health Benchmarks
Age 40 infographicPSA blood test: a simple prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test can be the first step and can tell you if more PC tests are needed

Early prostate cancer is hard to notice because you might not feel any symptoms. If you are feeling symptoms, it could mean your PC has reached an advanced stage. That’s why for most men, screening is recommended generally 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.

Image of Shannon Sharpe in a dress shirt and tie

“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 Club Shay Shay,
Talk That Talk™ Ambassador, Prostate Cancer Survivor

Checklist with red check marks

Ready to Talk That Talk™? Consider prostate cancer screenings by talking with your doctor.

Early screening can start with a simple blood test. Here’s what you need to know.

You may already have a doctor in mind that you want to start talking to about your prostate health. If you don’t have a doctor that you see regularly, there are health centers that can screen you for prostate cancer.

Take a look at the link below to find some options.

Your talk, your walk handbook

Be prepared with a personalized Handbook

The Talk That Talk Handbook can help you get ready for your doctor visit. Build one that fits your specific needs by choosing the topics that matter to you so you and your doctor can have an informed discussion about your prostate health.

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Connect with screening support

If you need help paying for your screening or getting to your appointment, there are organizations that can help with travel and hotels to help you get to your appointment.

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.

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Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

A PSA test measures the amount of PSA in the blood, and the level of PSA helps to indicate the health of the prostate.

Why is it important?

  • If higher than normal PSA levels are found using the test, your doctor might recommend repeating a PSA test, a digital rectal exam (DRE), or a prostate biopsy.

Healthcare professional (HCP) icon

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

If you have elevated PSA levels, the DRE helps your doctor understand if your prostate is larger than it should be or if your prostate has any unusual lumps or bumps that blood tests cannot show. If you don’t feel comfortable with the DRE, you can ask your doctor for imaging tests. Keep in mind that these imaging tests might be more expensive than routine tests and might not be covered by your insurance.

Why is it important?

  • You might find the digital rectal exam awkward or embarrassing. It’s your choice whether you have the test done. A PSA test is still the recommended first step for PC screening, and a DRE is usually recommended after high levels of prostate-specific antigen are found.

Additional Prostate Cancer Testing Options

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Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS)

Transrectal ultrasounds create a video image of the prostate gland by using sound waves. You’ll most likely be referred to a radiologist to do this exam. The radiologist will place a small probe into the rectum to help provide high-quality images.

Why is it important?

  • The TRUS can provide images of abnormal areas in the prostate and reveal its size and shape.

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI is a PC screening method that produces images using a magnet and radio waves.

Why is it important?

  • An MRI can be used to determine the stage of prostate cancer and whether it has spread.

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Prostate-specific membrane antigen positron emission tomography (PSMA PET) scan

A PSMA PET scan is a newer and more advanced technology that can tell you if PC has progressed and to what extent. It works by putting a radioactive tracer in your body to attach itself to PC proteins called prostate-specific membrane antigens (PSMA).

Why is it important?

  • A PSMA PET scan is a more accurate way to discover if PC has spread to other parts of the body compared with other types of screening methods.
  • You can ask your doctor if this newer technology is available, whether you were just diagnosed or have PC and want to find out if it has spread.

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Breast Cancer (BRCA) Gene Test

The BRCA genes help the body repair DNA damage. But these BRCA genes can also be damaged. Damaged genes are known as mutations, and can be passed down by either parent. A BRCA gene blood test can tell you if your BRCA genes have mutated. This can be a sign that you are at higher risk of other cancers, including PC. BRCA gene mutations have also been linked to more aggressive forms of PC.

Why is it important?

  • By finding out whether you have BRCA gene mutations, you’re not just helping yourself—you can Talk That Talk and share this vital information with your brothers, sons, and grandsons.
Explore genetic testing services

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:

Understanding your PSA levels infographic

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) 2023 Prostate Cancer Early Screening Guidelines

It’s important to remember that a PSA test is one tool used 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.

Vial containing patient blood for PSA testing

Talk That Talk™ and Track Your PSA

Talk That Talk and Track Your PSA is a great resource to make it easier for you to follow your PSA results and make better-informed decisions with your doctor.

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.

Set a date to return for a follow-up appointment. It may take time to discover whether or not it’s PC. If you keep having high PSA levels, work with your doctor to find out the cause.

Healthcare professional (HCP) with their arm around a male patient

Self-Advocate to See a Specialist

Your primary care doctor will perform a PSA blood test and possibly a digital rectal exam (DRE). However, urologists and advanced practice providers, such as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, are care team members trained in conditions affecting the urinary system. They can provide even more expertise when it comes to prostate cancer. They 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 specialist. When we “know our needs, we should speak up and advocate for them.”

Here’s what your urologist or advanced practice provider may 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
  • Order an imaging scan of the prostate to find out how much the cancer has progressed