Prostate Tests? Take Two
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests can predict prostate cancer early but should be used along with digital-rectal exams, the American Urological Association (AUA) recommends. The AUA has called PSA blood level the "best single test for early prostate cancer detection," but the group urges the rectal exam as well because it can detect some tumors the PSA misses.
Generally, men should get annual prostate cancer tests beginning at age 50, the AUA says. Men with higher risk, such as African-Americans and those with a family history of prostate cancer, should be tested at an earlier age.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, claiming about 27,000 lives in 2007 according the American Cancer Society. The PSA test is the routine indicator of prostate cancer and enlarged prostate.
It defines prostate volume by measuring the amount of protein produced by prostate cells. So if a man's PSA level is high, he has more prostate cells, indicating growth.
The prostate, a walnut-sized bundle of glands, surrounds the urethra. If it becomes enlarged, it can restrict urine flow and cause pain. While prostate cancer is one cause of abnormal prostate growth, prostate growth is not always cancerous. But an enlarged prostate -- called benign prostatic hyperplasia -- also can cause serious urinary problems.
Reviewed July 2008