Living with cancer blog

Prostate cancer screening — a new model for the future?

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. July 21, 2012

I've been tracking the latest news and opinions on prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing used to screen for prostate cancer. I'm sure many of you are curious about the new recommendations that have been announced.

In June 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against routine PSA testing to screen for prostate cancer. The recommendation doesn't apply to men diagnosed with prostate cancer and under observation for progression or recurrence.

This topic remains controversial, but is based on the fact that PSA testing hasn't been proven to decrease deaths from prostate cancer. The main concerns noted are false-positives, overdiagnosis and overtreatment.

The PSA test isn't perfect, and can be elevated for other medical reasons. Researchers have also found that many low-risk (less aggressive, slow growing) prostate cancers can be simply observed for a period without needing aggressive treatment from the start.

All of this means that it's important to take the time to decide if you want to be screened or not depending on your personal history and choice. The scientific community agrees that a new way to screen and test for prostate cancer is needed. Meantime, talk with your doctor about what's best for you.

Mayo Clinic urologists recommend a personalized approach as men consider the benefits and risks of PSA screening. Prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer in men. Therefore, it's still important to consider screening for those at high risk of developing cancer.

Mayo Clinic specialists recommend a discussion about PSA screening starting at age 40:

  • If your personal or medical history places you at higher risk (strong family history of prostate cancer)
  • If your ethnicity puts you at risk (African ethnicity has the highest risk)
  • If you have a life expectancy of at least 10-15 years (the benefits of screening decrease with age)

What's your opinion on this topic?


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

July 21, 2012