Monday, 12 November 2012
One of the most common questions I get regarding prostate cancer is who/when to get tested. People who absolutely need to talk to their doctor are men who:
- Will soon be 50 years old
- Are over 50 years old and have not yet talked to their Doctor about prostate cancer
- May be at higher risk due to a family history of prostate cancer
- have symptoms of prostate cancer (See Movember #2)
The two main tests for prostate cancer are the PSA test, and a Digital Rectal Exam.
PSA, or Prostate Specific Antigen, is a marker in the blood that is tested to see if there is a problem with the prostate. It is important to remember that PSA is not specific to prostate cancer, but indicates that there may be a problem that needs further investigation. "Normal" PSA levels increase as we age. If your PSA levels are above normal for your age, your Doctor may order additional testing.
Like everything, there are pros and cons to PSA testing. Here are some of them, but again, it is important to talk to your Doctor
Pro's of PSA:
- put your mind at ease
- tell you if you need further testing
- detect cancer early (before symptoms)
- detect before it speads, therefore when it is easier to treat
Con's of PSA:
- can not tell you how serious the cancer is. More testing will be required
- not 100%. It may give you a false negative or a false positive. Your doctor will take the results in context of your personal situation to make the decision to test further or not.
Digital Rectal Exam
- Since your prostate pushes up against your rectum, your doctor can feel for it's shape, firmness, contour, etc. This exam is very quick and not nearly as uncomfortable as you may think.
When used together, a PSA and DRE is the best way to detect problems early. When detected early Prostate cancer is very treatable.
Just to hammer home the importance of regular testing, lets take a look at the 5-year survival rates. If detected early, and a point where there is no spead from the prostate the 5- year survival rate is nearly 100%. If the cancer is regional, that is only in the area of the prostate, the 5-year survival rate is still nearly 100%. If the cancer has spread to distant areas, the 5-year survival rate drops to 29%.
I have my appointment booked with my Doctor tomorrow. To be honest, i'm not looking forward to it. But, early detection is everything and I'm sure it won't be the highlight of her day either!
Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC
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