PSA test: Is it necessary after age 75?

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PSA test: Is it necessary after age 75?

Question

My 75-year-old father recently had a physical exam, and his doctor told him it was no longer necessary to have his PSA level checked. Is this true?

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Answer

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is most often used to screen for prostate cancer. The need for a PSA test depends on many factors, including a man's age and general health.

The American Urological Association recommends an annual PSA test for all men age 50 and older who have at least a 10-year life expectancy, and for men age 40 and older who are at increased risk of prostate cancer. However, men older than age 75 may not benefit from a PSA test. Here's why. Prostate cancer typically grows slowly and causes no symptoms. Treating prostate cancer in a man older than 75 years may not lengthen his lifespan. Yet, the treatment itself has many potential risks and side effects.

There are exceptions to this general recommendation. Men age 75 and older who are in excellent health and have a significant life expectancy may still benefit from a PSA test. The need for the test depends on the individual situation.

Before having your PSA checked, it's important to understand the potential benefits and limitations of this test. The PSA test can't tell the difference between prostate cancer and other prostate problems. If an abnormal PSA level is detected, further testing — usually expensive and invasive testing such as a prostate biopsy — may be required to rule out cancer.

Although the PSA test is most often used as a screening test for prostate cancer, it may also be used to evaluate and manage other prostate problems.

Last Updated: 02/24/2006
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