Two tests are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer—
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: Measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions that affect the prostate.
As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands make more PSA than others. PSA levels also can be affected by—
- Certain medical procedures.
- Certain medications.
- An enlarged prostate.
- A prostate infection.
Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSA test results.
Should I Get Screened for Prostate Cancer?
CDC and other federal agencies follow the prostate cancer screening recommendations set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which recommends against PSA-based screening for men who do not have symptoms. Other organizations, like the American Urological Association, [PDF-89KB] the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Physicians may have other recommendations. Talk to your doctor.
Informed Decision Making
Understanding that men and their doctors may continue to screen for prostate cancer, CDC continues to support informed decision making. Informed decision making occurs when a man—
- Understands the nature and risk of prostate cancer.
- Understands the risks of, benefits of, and alternatives to screening.
- Participates in the decision to be screened or not at a level he desires.
- Makes a decision consistent with his preferences and values.
We need better ways to screen for and treat prostate cancer. Until we make these discoveries, and even when we do, men and their families will turn to trusted health care professionals to help them make informed decisions. CDC encourages all doctors to have open conversations with their patients who have questions about prostate cancer and PSA screening.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
4770 Buford Hwy NE
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO