According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, and one out of thirty will die from this disease. But while it seems obvious that early detection through screening would be advisable, thereis considerable debate whether men over the age of 50 who do not have symptoms of prostate cancer should have prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.
Some argue that, because a PSA test can’t differentiate between aggressive (fast growing) and non-aggressive (slow growing) cancers, a positive result may cause a man to undergo needless surgery and radiation, with the possibility of significant side effectsincluding urinary incontinence, bowel dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction.
However, the American Urological Association takes the position that, when appropriately interpreted, the PSA test provides important information concerning the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer patients. The American Cancer Society suggests that patients should discuss the risks and benefits with their physician and then make an informed decision whether or not to be screened.
It is important for all men to understand the steps that follow a PSA test when deciding whether or not to be screened. An elevated PSA level does not necessarily indicate cancer, and it is likewise possible that cancer may be present even when the PSA is low. Each man should decide whether or not to have a PSA test after discussion with his doctor, taking his personal risk factors and preferences into account.