Recent guidelines suggest that men ages 55 to 69 talk with their doctor about prostate cancer screening and their personal risk factors. Highland Hospital's Chief of Radiation Oncology Dr. Hong Zhang explains the guidelines and shares the top five things men need to know about screening.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that men ages 55 to 69 decide whether to undergo PSA testing after talking it over with their doctor, discussing their family history and symptoms, and taking into account that the test occasionally results in false positives. The USPSTF does not recommend PSA tests for men age 70 and older.
Here are five important things to know:
- Most prostate cancer is slow growing. Being diagnosed with prostate cancer doesn't always mean the best option is to have it treated. Some prostate cancers grow so slowly that the risks that go along with treatment (such as urinary incontinence, bowel irritation, or erectile dysfunction) may outweigh the benefits. Consult with your doctor to see what the best course of action is for you.
- Some men are more at risk than others. Family history, age, and ethnicity are just a few factors that could make you more susceptible to prostate cancer. Men over the age of 65 and African American men generally have a higher risk. As for the USPSTF recommendation for men over age 70, it's important to consider age on a case-by-case basis. Some men over age 70 are still very active and have longevity in their family, and they might benefit from diagnosis and treatment for prostate cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you might fall into this category.
- Know your family history. You would be amazed at how many men don't know their family history, and then find out after their diagnosis that others in their family have had it too. Do your research and make sure your doctor knows about your family history, because it could put you at an increased risk.
- Pay attention to your urination status and if it changes. Most men with prostate cancer experience no symptoms but advanced prostate cancer may cause changes. What's normal for you? More frequent trips to the bathroom, slow or weak urine stream, or blood in the urine can sometimes be a symptom of prostate cancer, so let your doctor know if you experience any changes.
- Talk to your doctor. We can't say it enough. Have a frank discussion with your primary care physician about your personal medical history and whether or not you should be tested for prostate cancer. Each man is different, which is why PSA tests aren't always recommended for everyone.
Bottom line: Men have a choice and a voice. Have the conversation with your doctor today to see if PSA testing is right for you.
Hong Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., is the chief of Radiation Oncology at UR Medicine’s Wilmot Cancer Center at Highland Hospital. She is board certified by the American Board of Radiology. For appointments call (585) 341-6750.