Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. While it can affect 3 million American men a year, only a small fraction of those will succumb to the disease. That is because prostate cancer is usually slow growing and usually something people die “with” rather than “from”. Still a small fraction of 3 million is a lot, making prostate cancer just behind lung cancer as a cancer killer in men. There is debate about prostate cancer screening. Screening involves a blood test, a PSA, and a digital rectal exam. That is because a positive screening test can lead to test anxiety, over-treatment, and side effects such as sexual dysfunction. My friend, Dr. Koushik Shaw, from Austin Urology Institute makes the point that screening a least gives a patient information and with shared decision making between a patient and his doctor, appropriate risk/benefit alternatives can be entertained to appropriately tailor a screening program for the individual. Hard to argue with that.
So for patients over age 50 or with a first degree family member with prostate cancer, it would be wise to discuss prostate cancer screening with your doctor.