Why prostate screening is so important

Prostate cancer is a slow and silent killer of men, especially those over the age of 50. Nobody knows what causes it but men over a certain age, afro-Caribbean or men of African descent and men who have had a close male relative with it are all at a higher risk of it than anybody else.  

It can go undetected for so long because it is a very slow growing illnesses and the symptoms can go ignored for a long time, these include: An increase in the need to urinate, a sudden urgency to urinate, difficulty in letting the urine out, having to strain only to have a very weak flow and the feeling that your bladder is not empty when you are done. Blood in the urine or semen is also an indicator. Because all of these symptoms are the same as a non cancerous condition called prostate enlargement, many men just assume it is something that comes with getting old and do not worry until signs that the cancer has spread appear such as pain or weight loss.

The prostate is a gland in the pelvis, between the penis and the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It’s job is to create the thick white fluid that, when mixed with the sperm produced by the testicles, creates semen.

There are screening tools that are used to help keep an eye on the prostate that men should be aware of. A visit to the doctor will likely, after a certain age end up with a digital rectal examination which is when he inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for abnormalities. A urine sample is also requested to check for any infections.

The most controversial test is PSA screening – This is a blood test that checks for prostate-specific antigen. It is controversial because PSA are not specifically linked to prostate cancer but can be found with many other conditions. Results for PSA can often be unreliable and show up as a false positive which then leads to not only worry by the test taker but possible unnecessary further tests such as a biopsy which is painful and can have complications. Most doctors will look at your risk factors, family history and age and recommend an MRI to look for other possible causes to rule out prostate cancer first before resorting to a biopsy.

Because of the reliability and possible unnecessary worry, some men will not take the PSA test for fear that they will be subjected to pain for no reason but prostate cancer has been discovered in many men this way that had no idea they had it and as a result, their lives were saved before the cancer had a chance to spread.

If you are in any of the categories of risk associated with prostate cancer then you should weigh up the pros and cons and make a decision for yourself as to whether you want to do these screening methods. If you have any of the above symptoms though and have been putting it off even though you are the right age or ethnicity to be at risk then it could quite possibly save your life.

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