Once you’re pushing 50, it’s time to get serious about your prostate. Enlargement of the prostate is very common among men as they advance in age, and around one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Taking good care of your health can reduce prostate discomfort and help improve the health of your prostate, but should you also get a prostate cancer screening? The answer is anything but cut-and-dry.
A prostate cancer screening can find indications of the possibility of cancer in men who have no symptoms. The earlier any cancer is diagnosed, the better the treatment outcomes typically will be, so acting early is important.
Two main tests are commonly used to detect prostate cancer…
The digital rectal exam, or DRE, is typically conducted at the beginning of the screening. The doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to check the size of the prostate and determine whether any abnormalities are present.
The prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA, is a blood test that measures the PSA level in the blood. PSA is a protein made by the prostate, and the higher the levels of PSA in the blood, the more likely there’s a prostate problem.
Men who have a high PSA level are generally referred for more tests, possibly including a prostate biopsy.
Neither the DRA or the PSA can actually confirm prostate cancer. Rather, they reveal signs that a prostate problem exists, and further testing is needed to confirm cancer. However, abnormal prostate cells, which indicate cancer, sometimes never grow or spread and remain harmless.
In some cases, men with a cancer diagnosis will end up going through serious medical procedures, which carry high risks, when in fact, such procedures were unnecessary. Over-diagnosis is a serious risk with prostate cancer screenings and can have a lasting impact on a man’s prostate and general overall health.
The main problem is that several things besides prostate cancer can increase a man’s PSA levels. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, of 1,000 men being screened, 240 will get a positive result. However, only 100 of the men with positive results will actually have prostate cancer, but some of these cancers will never grow or present a problem.
Two major studies that looked at prostate cancer screenings found conflicting results about whether these screenings are beneficial. One study found low rates of prostate cancer deaths in both men who did and did not get screened, while the other study found that screening reduces prostate cancer deaths by 20 percent. However, later analysis of these studies found that both of the studies were seriously flawed, and the analysts reviewing the data found that actually, prostate exam screenings reduced the risk of prostate cancer mortality by 25 to 31 percent in one study and 27 to 32 percent in the other.
But since the studies were so flawed in methodology and data, many researchers and medical personnel take the results with a grain of salt.
Nowadays, the official line is that if you’re over 55 years old, you should talk to your doctor about whether or not a prostate cancer screening is right for you. If you have a family history of prostate cancer or have lifestyle risk factors like obesity, a screening may be recommended. Your doctor can explain in detail the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening and answer any questions about the screening, results, and next steps.
Whether or not you choose to get screened for prostate cancer, taking steps now to prevent prostate and other cancers should be a major focus in your life as you age. This means eating a healthy, mostly plant-based diet, getting daily exercise, quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol consumption, and taking a supplement like Prostavol’s Prostate Support, which contains natural, research-based ingredients that promote good prostate health and reduce symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
If you’re concerned about prostate cancer or other prostate problems, visit your doctor. Together, you can decide whether to screen, and you can set goals for lifestyle changes that will promote good overall prostate health and improve your general health for a longer, happier life.
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