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Prostate Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

Prostate cancer is often a silent disease. Screening can help detect prostate cancer early, while it is still treatable.

We recommend that men in their 50s discuss prostate cancer screening with their primary care physician. At your appointment, you should plan to discuss:

  • Your values and preferences
  • Your family history of cancer
  • Your age and racial background
  • The results of any genetic testing for cancer risk
  • Your diet, occupation and chemical exposure

What Is Prostate Cancer Screening?

Screening aims to catch prostate cancer early, while the cancer is still contained in the prostate gland. It can also help determine your risk of having an aggressive form of cancer. Screening can include:

Who Should Get Screened?

Medical groups have differing opinions on the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screenings. This is why it is important to discuss your decision with your physician.

The American Urological Association, however, recommends that:

  • Men at normal risk of prostate cancer begin discussing PSA tests with their doctor between the ages of 55 and 59
  • African American men consider being screened at a younger age, as they are at higher risk of prostate cancer
  • Early screening be considered for men with a family history of prostate cancer

What Is the Concern with PSA Testing?

PSA test results can be misleading because:

  • Conditions besides cancer can elevate your PSA levels
  • PSA levels alone do not provide information on the aggressiveness of cancer

Because of this, PSA testing can lead to men having unnecessary biopsies. It may also lead to men being treated for a cancer that was never going to be life-threatening

UC San Diego Health urologists understand the limits of PSA tests. They use PSA test results in a way that benefits your care.

How Are Prostate Cancer Screenings Used?

If a lump in your prostate is detected, you may be referred to urologist for a biopsy. A biopsy may also be recommended if your PSA levels are high.

UC San Diego Health urologists use an advanced biopsy technique. It helps find and remove cancerous cells that could normally be missed.

A pathologist with expertise in urologic cancers will then examine your cell samples under a microscope to confirm a cancer diagnosis.

If cancer is found, the pathologist will grade the tumor on a scale of 2 to 10. The higher the number the more likely your cancer will spread.  The grading system for prostate cancer is called the Gleason score

Depending on your personal preferences and cancer risk, your urologist may recommend:


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