Urologist Dr. Brian Hale recommends that men over 50 years old be checked regularly for prostate cancer. It is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in men and it increases in likelihood as men age. Tests such as the PSA can help detect prostate cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective.
The most common way to screen for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The PSA test is simple and works like this: Both cancerous and noncancerous prostate tissues create protein, and small amounts of that protein will enter the bloodstream. Prostate cancer cells produce more proteins than noncancerous ones, so if cancer cells are present there will be an increase in the proteins in the blood. The PSA test works by checking the blood for increased protein levels.
There are pros and cons to PSA screening for prostate cancer. PSA tests can show increases in proteins when cancerous tissue is not actually present. This is called a false positive and can cause a great deal of stress for the patient and lead to more invasive tests that may not be necessary. For these reasons, among others, PSA tests were not recommended to patients for a period of time.
A few years after PSA tests stopped being recommended, Dr. Hale began noticing a troubling trend. He began seeing an increasingly large number of patients with prostate cancers that had metastasized, which is when it spreads to other parts of the body. This happens when prostate cancer goes undetected and has time to grow untreated. Dr. Hale noticed a correlation between the time PSA screening stopped being recommended and the up-tick in cases of fast-growing and metastasized cancers.
Because of this finding, Dr. Hale recommends that men continue PSA screening as part of their preventative care. Although it may not be a perfect test, its pros far outweigh its cons. Prostate cancer, when caught early is far easier to treat, and can often be treated with less extreme methods. Prostate cancers that have metastasized can be trickier and far more expensive to treat. Although some men may not like blood tests, it is better to take a simple blood test and catch an issue early than it is to let prostate cancer spread and turn into a much more serious medical problem.
As you age, it is important to take care of yourself and see the right doctors to discuss what is best for you. Dedicated urologists like Dr. Brian Hale at the Advance Institute of Urology have been discussing these issues with their patients for many years and will continue looking out for them. For more information, visit the Advanced Urology Institute website.