Can prostate cancer be found early?
Screening refers to testing to find a disease such as cancer in people who don’t have symptoms of that disease. For some types of cancer, screening can help find cancers at an early stage, when they are more easily cured.
Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a man’s blood. Another way to find prostate cancer is the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which the doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. These 2 tests are described in more detail in our document Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.
If the results of either one of these tests are abnormal, further testing is needed to see if there is a cancer. If prostate cancer is found as a result of screening with the PSA test or DRE, it will probably be at an earlier, more treatable stage than if no screening were done.
There is no question that screening can help find many prostate cancers early, but there are still questions about whether this saves lives. There are clearly both pros and cons to the prostate cancer screening tests in use today.
At this time, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men thinking about having prostate cancer screening should make informed decisions based on available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the benefits and side effects of prostate cancer screening and treatment.
To learn more about prostate cancer screening and the current ACS screening guidelines, see our document Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.
Last Medical Review: 12/22/2014
Last Revised: 03/12/2015