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Prostate cancer affects men across the country. In its snapshot of prostate cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death among men in the United States.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) provides resources for Massachusetts residents on the signs of this disease, its risk factors, and key points to discuss with their healthcare provider on screenings and treatment options.

Am I at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk factors for prostate cancer include being 50 or older, being African American, or having a family history of prostate cancer.

Whether you are at higher risk for prostate cancer or not, you should contact a doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Blood in semen or urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Difficulty emptying bladder completely
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Interrupted or weak urine flow
  • Pain when ejaculating or urinating
  • Persistent pain in back, hip, or pelvis

What Are the Screening Options?

There are currently two types of prostate cancer screening available — digital rectal exams (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen testing (PSA).

  • PSA — A physician conducts this blood test to check the level of antigens (a protein produced in the prostate) in your blood. What you should know about the PSA test is that a high PSA rating can be a sign of prostate cancer, but it often isn’t. For that reason, your physician may conduct further testing or a biopsy before making a diagnosis.

What Are the Limits of PSA Screening?

The purpose of a PSA screening is to catch prostate cancer early. Usually, early detection can improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment, but most forms of prostate cancer grow slowly and may not require aggressive or invasive procedures. There are also many other reasons why your PSA level may be high. Because of this, some healthcare professionals argue that PSA testing may lead to more intense medical treatments than the patient needs, many of which can have serious side effects.

How Do I Know What’s Right for Me?

You don’t have to decide on your own if the PSA test is right for you. You should make this choice with the help of your physician, family members, and anyone else who is involved in your health care decisions. Contact your doctor to learn more about the pros and cons of PSA screening and whether this test makes sense for you.

To find out more about prostate cancer screening and treatment, tweet us @MassGov or comment below.

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