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Prostate cancer screening debate

Over the last few months, you’ve probably heard a lot of discussion surrounding yearly prostate cancer screenings, but the details of the debate may be a bit confusing. In short, doctors and researchers have been considering whether or not it is necessary for men to be screened for prostate cancer on a yearly basis upon reaching a certain age.

Recent findings have led to the argument intensifying, and here is a brief overview to clarify what the fuss is all about.

What is a prostate cancer screening?

Prostate cancer screenings make it possible to detect the cancer in its early stages, before symptoms are present. With many, catching the disease early could result in more positive outcomes. According to the American Cancer Society, the 10-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed at an early stage is 98 percent.

Current screening methods include a simple blood test for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam (DRE) of the prostate. PSA is a protein that is produced by the prostate gland. The protein will be present in small quantities for healthy men, while high amounts of PSA may indicate prostate cancer or other less serious conditions, such as infection.

The debate

Previously, men over 50 were advised to be screened for prostate cancer once a year. However, according to recent studies, these annual screenings may lead to men having to make a difficult decision about treatment, when it isn’t in fact necessary.

Some treatments for prostate cancer can have uncomfortable side effects, such as incontinence or erectile dysfunction, which is why the decision to treat can be stressful. For men who do not exhibit symptoms or risk factors, there are doctors who believe that the benefits of yearly screenings may not outweigh the risks.

While screenings are useful in identifying cancer, experts conclude that not all men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer will definitely need to be treated immediately. Thus, screenings might not need to take place as frequently, especially since some prostate cancers are slow-growing.

Making the right decision for you

Deciding how often to have a prostate cancer screening is entirely up to you and your doctor. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, or other factors that may put you at an increased risk for the disease, then perhaps yearly screenings are a good idea.

Be sure to have an open and honest conversation with your doctor to decide what screening schedule is right for you and your individual needs.

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