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Screening is testing to find cancer in people before they have symptoms. For some types of cancer, screening can help find cancers at an early stage, when they are likely to be easier to treat.

Prostate cancer can often be found before symptoms arise 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, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. These tests are described in more detail in Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

If the results of either one of these tests are abnormal, further testing is often done to see if a man has 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 the benefits of screening outweigh the risks for most men. 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 getting screened for prostate cancer should make informed decisions based on available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the possible benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening.

To learn more about prostate cancer screening and the current ACS screening guidelines, see Prostate Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

Last Medical Review: 02/16/2016
Last Revised: 03/11/2016