A lot of confusion surrounds whether or not to get a prostate cancer test. However, Scott Kolbeck, MD, Wisconsin Institute of Urology, said not testing at all puts men at risk.
Not all prostate cancers are life threatening, nor do they all require immediate treatment, but doctors, and patients, cannot do anything if they do not know a cancer exists, said Dr. Kohlbeck, who sees patients at New London Family Medical Center’s specialty clinic.
One in six American men will get prostate cancer in his lifetime. More than 30,000 die of prostate cancer every year, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer.
The American Urological Association believes that the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test provides clinicians with valuable information to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
The PSA test is the most widely available means to give the medical community the ability to diagnose prostate cancer at its earliest stages. It provides patients with options, including active surveillance, as early as possible in the progression of their disease.
Prostate cancer forms in tissues of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Some prostate cancers are aggressive, advancing quickly and becoming life threatening. But some are slow growing and may never become a life threatening risk in the patient’s lifetime.
Prostate cancer usually occurs in older men. Early detection and risk assessment of prostate cancer should be offered to asymptomatic men 40 years of age or older who wish to be screened with an estimated life expectancy of more than 10 years.
Patients and doctors should have an open dialogue about the need for testing and the pros and cons, said Dr. Kolbeck. Patients should be the ones to decide what they want to do. The only way to know for sure is to be tested, he added. Currently, there is no other widely available blood test for prostate cancer. Before the PSA, prostate cancers were commonly found following the onset of symptoms from advanced disease. Symptomatic tumors were of a higher grade, more advanced and often deadly.
A prostate cancer diagnosis does not automatically mean a man needs immediate treatment. But patients need to know about it to make an informed decision, Dr. Kolbeck said.