In many cases, prostate cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms until the disease process is in its later stages. For that reason, annual screening exams are a critical part to diagnosing prostate cancer early. Early diagnosis allows a wider variety of treatment options, as well as a chance to stop the prostate cancer from spreading elsewhere in the body.

The American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association encourage every man to talk to his doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate screening. Men should also talk about the factors that increase risks for prostate cancer such as age, family history and race.

Causes and risk factors
Age, race, family history and diet can all influence a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Specifically, risk for developing prostate cancer increases with age, going up significantly after age 50, and African-American men have a higher risk of developing the disease than men of other races.

Prostate cancer screening steps
There are two steps to the yearly prostate cancer screening process.

Step one is a Prostate Specific Antigen blood test which measures a protein produced by the cells of the prostate. This is often called a PSA test.

Step two is a digital rectal exam performed by your physician. This test helps identify if there are changes in the size or texture of your prostate.

The PSA test tells your doctor if the prostate is releasing higher than usual amounts of PSA into your bloodstream. PSA is a protein that is naturally produced by the prostate gland. As the prostate enlarges, additional PSA is produced and seeps into the blood stream, making it a useful marker for prostate cancer. While a high PSA doesn’t necessarily mean cancer is present, and a low PSA doesn’t necessarily mean there is no cancer, it is an important tool for physicians. Only a biopsy can confirm or deny the presence of prostate cancer.

If the DRE and/or PSA come back as not normal, it might mean you have a problem with your prostate. Your physician will want to do additional tests. This does not necessarily mean you have cancer. Other prostate problems can also cause a higher PSA count. You may have an infection or an enlarged prostate known as benign prostate hyperplasia. Your physician may further evaluate your prostate using ultrasound and biopsy. During a biopsy, the doctor takes a tissue sample from the prostate to see if there are cancerous cells.

Talk to your doctor about prostate screenings
Talk to your primary care provider about the right time to get screened and schedule an appointment today with a Riverside primary care physician.

If you are uninsured, unable to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and unable to afford your annual prostate screening, please contact Riverside’s Cancer Outreach Office for assistance. Free prostate screenings are offered every fall at various locations throughout the health system by appointments made through the Cancer Outreach Office. For more information on these annual screenings please call 800-520-7006.