Making the decision to have a PSA test depends on a variety of factors.
Cancer screening tests — including the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to look for signs of prostate cancer — can be a good idea. Prostate cancer screening can help identify cancer early on, when treatment is most effective. And a normal PSA test, combined with a digital rectal exam, can help reassure you that it’s unlikely you have prostate cancer. But getting a PSA test for prostate cancer may not be necessary for some men, especially men 75 and older.
Most organizations recommend PSA screening generally and encourage the test in men between the ages of 40 and 75, and in men with an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Ultimately, whether you have a PSA test is something you should decide after discussing it with your doctor, considering your risk factors and weighing your personal preferences.
Here’s more information to help you prepare for a conversation with your doctor about PSA testing.
Simple test, not-so-simple decision
There are a number of pros and cons to the PSA test.
|Pros of PSA screening||Cons of PSA screening|
|PSA screening may help you detect prostate cancer early.||Some prostate cancers are slow growing and never spread beyond the prostate gland.|
|Cancer is easier to treat and is more likely to be cured if it’s diagnosed in the early stages of the disease.||Not all prostate cancers need treatment. Treatment for prostate cancer may have risks and side effects, including urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction or bowel dysfunction.|
|PSA testing can be done with a simple, widely available blood test.||PSA tests aren’t foolproof. It’s possible for your PSA levels to be elevated when cancer isn’t present, and to not be elevated when cancer is present.|
|For some men, knowing is better than not knowing. Having the test can provide you with a certain amount of reassurance — either that you probably don’t have prostate cancer or that you do have it and can now have it treated.||A diagnosis of prostate cancer can provoke anxiety and confusion. Concern that the cancer may not be life-threatening can make decision making complicated.|
|The number of deaths from prostate cancer has gone down since PSA testing became available.||It’s not yet clear whether the decrease in deaths from prostate cancer is due to early detection and treatment based on PSA testing or due to other factors.|
NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) also issued a media release on August 31st 2012: