When to schedule a prostate cancer screening

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

  • Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
  • Black men or men with a family history of prostate cancer should consider starting screenings at age 45.
  • Early detection is the key to successful treatment.

[3 MIN READ]

The statistics on prostate cancer from the National Institutes of Health can be a little daunting. For example, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States. It represents nearly one out of every 10 new cancer cases annually. It is projected that nearly 200,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year.

However, the good news is that there is a 97.8 percent five-year survival rate according to the study that looked at data between 2010 and 2016. Knowing the signs of prostate cancer and whether you’re at increased risk are two of the best tactics you can use to protect your health.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Because prostate cancer grows slowly, it does not always have obvious warning signs in its early stage. Once the cancer becomes more advanced, common symptoms include:

  • Blood in your semen
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Frequent and urgent urination
  • Lower back, hip, pelvic or thigh pain
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow

Prostate cancer risk factors

Different risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. According to the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, your risk goes up according to your:

  • Age—More than 80 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men age 65 or older.
  • Race—Black men are diagnosed with prostate cancer more often than men of other races.
  • Where you live—Men who live in North America or northern Europe, especially those with unhealthy lifestyles, are affected more often by prostate cancer.
  • Family history—Prostate cancer that runs in families accounts for about 20% of all cases.
  • Genetics—Men with BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutations have increased risk.

Other risk factors are not as clearly associated with prostate cancer but could play a role in increasing risk, especially smoking.

Screening tests for prostate cancer

The American Cancer Society recommends that you discuss your risk factors and any concerns with your doctor to determine when starting prostate screening is right for you. They stress the decision should not be made until you’ve been informed about the uncertainties, risks and potential benefits the screening provides.

  • If you are at average risk and expected to live at least 10 more years, start the discussion at age 50.
  • If you are Black and your father or a brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65, talk to your doctor when you turn 45.
  • If you are at high risk, with more than one first-degree relative (father or brother) who had prostate cancer at an early age, consider screening starting at age 40.

There are two tests typically used to screen for prostate cancer:

  • The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test measures your levels of PSA, a protein produced by your prostate.
  • The digital rectal exam (DRE) involves a doctor probing the prostate using a gloved finger inserted into your rectum.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. The month is intended to “call attention to the struggles of men and families affected by prostate cancer, encourage understanding of the most common risk factors and treatments, and celebrate the victories and medical advances that give us hope that one day we will rid our Nation of this disease,” according to a proclamation issued in its honor.

We encourage you to #StepUpForBlue and mark the event by learning the facts about prostate cancer and taking steps to protect your health.

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Find a doctor

Don’t let the fear of prostate cancer keep you from making an informed decision about screenings. Talk to your doctor to determine what’s right for you. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Express Care Virtual connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

If you need oncology resources for prostate cancer, find more on our website.

Find out what we’re doing to keep you safe when you visit.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

About the Author

Our philosophy for well being is looking at the holistic human experience. As such, the Swedish Wellness & Lifestyle Team is committed to shining a light on health-related topics that help you live your healthiest life. From nutrition to mindfulness to annual screenings, our team offers clinically-backed advice and tips to help you and your loved ones live life to the fullest.

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