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Prostate Screening - Just Do It
By : Mark Rosenberg, MD

One of the most common health concerns my male patients have is their prostate and screening for disease. The thought of possibly having prostate cancer is, indeed, scary as statistics show it to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer amongst men. Prostate cancer affects all ethnic groups of men but rates are highest amongst Hispanic and African-American males. It is the second leading cause of death in all American men. No wonder many men dread the tests that will reveal their prostate health. However, as I tell my patients who may have some anxiety about testing, I feel that prostate screening offers positive benefits and can help you in the following ways:

o Can detect any potential cancer early

o Early treatment is more effective

What Is Prostate Screening?

Further, to help my patients feel more at ease with the idea of prostate screening, I like to explain exactly what is involved. There are basically two parts to a prostate screen:

o Digital rectal exam (DRE): This is a physical exam performed in your doctor's office. A lubricated finger is inserted into the rectum. This exam helps find any lumps or other abnormalities. Usually not painful, your ability to relax will greatly aid the exam.

o The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test: This is a blood test that measures PSA, a substance made by the prostate gland. Higher PSA levels can indicate possible disease in the prostate. However, other factors can also create a higher PSA level like:

1. Age

2. Race

3. Infection

4. Enlarged prostate (noncancerous)

5. Other medical procedures

Note: PSA blood tests are also available as an at-home test.

Who Is At Risk?

There are certain risk factors associated with prostate cancer. As I tell my male patients, if you have these risk factors, prostate screening is crucial for you.

o Your age - as a man grows older, risk for prostate cancer increases

o Family history - risk 2-3 times higher in males with affected family members

o Ethnicity - as noted above, Hispanic males are at greatest risk for prostate cancer, though this is not known why. African-American males are second-highest at risk, white males next, with Asian/Pacific Islander, Native Americans at less risk.

Should You Get Prostate Screening?

As I've shared with you, I feel that prostate screening is beneficial to you as a screening health tool. It may help put your mind at ease to know that over 1.8 million American men are survivors of prostate cancer! That is why early diagnosis is so important. Ideally, I like all my male patients to undergo general prostate screening at least once a year starting over the age of 40. However, I will also recommend additional screening if, at any age, they start experiencing any of the following symptoms:

o Difficulty with urination - starting, stopping flow; weak stream

o Frequent urination - especially having to get up a few times a night

o Blood present in the urine or semen

o Pain upon ejaculation

o Continual pain in the lower back, hips, pelvis

Prostate screening can cause a lot of anxiety about the exam, blood tests, and possible outcomes. But, as I share with my male patients, it can also give you peace of mind about your prostate health. Prostate screening will put the power in your hands and allow you to make an informed decision for early treatment should you need to. Remember, highest survival rates are the benefit of early treatment. Consider it the once a year favor you do just for you.