Screening for Prostate Cancer: Pros and Cons

As men grow older, maintaining prostate health is among several goals to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer.

One of the common questions men have about prostate health is whether to undergo screening for prostate cancer with a prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA. A PSA test helps check the health of the prostate gland and is one of several tests that can diagnose prostate cancer.

Because PSA testing isn’t 100 percent accurate, there are numerous factors that should be discussed thoroughly with a doctor, as it carries advantages and disadvantages.

We’ve summarized the main pros and cons associated with the two outcomes of PSA testing below:

If you get a normal result with no sign of prostate cancer:

Although this result may ease your concerns, no test is perfect. There is a small chance that the result is a false negative, suggesting a normal prostate when there is actually an abnormal growth that requires treatment.

If you get a result indicating an abnormal growth:

Receiving these results may show early signs of prostate cancer before it affects your health, allowing for early treatment of the disease and a much higher chance of survival.

However, a test may detect a tumor so slow-growing that it would never cause any harm or affect your health. This could lead to unnecessary treatments and side effects.

There is always a risk that the test may have produced a false positive, suggesting an abnormal growth when there isn’t one, potentially leading to medical complications and side effects due to unnecessary further testing.

If you or a loved one is considering screening for prostate cancer it’s important to be aware of what each result may mean for your individual case. Be sure to discuss all possibilities and potential side effects in depth with your physician.

This is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your health care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.