Prostate Cancer Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Can prostate cancer be found early?

Sometimes prostate cancer is found because a man goes to his doctor with symptoms. Often, though, it is found by testing men with no signs or symptoms of prostate cancer. This is called screening.

The test used most often for screening is the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test. Another test that can help find prostate cancer early is when a doctor checks the prostate with his or her finger (a digital rectal exam or DRE). These 2 tests are described in more detail in our document Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

If prostate cancer is found as a result of either one of these tests, it has probably been found at an early, more treatable stage.

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.

What the American Cancer Society recommends

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. They should first get information about what is known and what is not known about the risks and possible benefits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information.

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: 01/09/2015
Last Revised: 01/30/2015