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Does Screening Save Lives? NYP Explains Pros And Cons Of Prostate Tests

Prostate cancer screening can save lives, but not every man should undergo these procedures.
Prostate cancer screening can save lives, but not every man should undergo these procedures. Photo Credit: iStock.com_ileezhun

As they age, all men become vulnerable to prostate cancer, which is the second most common cancer in men in the United States. As with many cancers, the keys to lowering the risk for prostate cancer are knowledge, early detection and careful management of the disease.

Prostate cancer screening can detect the disease in its earlier, more curable stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful. However, not every man requires prostate cancer screening.

The main risk factors for prostate cancer are being over 65, being of African-American heritage and having a first-degree relative (father, brother or son) who has been diagnosed with the disease. Lifestyle factors such obesity, smoking and lack of exercise can also increase risk.

The two main screening tools for prostate cancer are the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. While it may seem that prostate cancer screening is a good idea for every man, these tests can sometimes miss prostate cancers, or can find suspicious-looking but harmless growths. Treatments for prostate cancer can have urinary, bowel and sexual side effects that can affect a man’s quality of life, so it is important to make the decision to be screened after balancing its risks and benefits.

The American Cancer Society recommends that physicians discuss the benefit of PSA screening with men over 50 who have a life expectancy greater than 10 years. This is because most prostate cancers develop slowly and don’t cause troubling symptoms or threaten survival for 8 to 10 years.

Men 50 or older should speak with their physician about the risks of prostate cancer, and determine if screening is right for them. For those with additional risk factors, screening at an earlier age may be important. Together with a physician, patients can decide on screening frequency.

For the best chance of successful prostate cancer treatment and cure, it’s important to choose to a cancer center that is on the cutting edge of oncological advances. These include genitourinary oncology, a multidisciplinary field that incorporates surgical, medical and radiation oncology, pathology, advanced imaging and radiology. With these tools, doctors can provide the most comprehensive and innovative care for patients with prostate, testicular, bladder and kidney cancers.

NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP) Cancer Centers provide high-quality, comprehensive cancer care at convenient locations throughout the New York metropolitan area, Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley. NYP Cancer Centers provide a comprehensive program of cancer services in a state-of-the-art, comfortable environment. Board certified medical oncologists collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of cancer specialists to provide each patient with an individualized plan of care. The team frequently collaborates with the faculty at academic medical centers, many of whom are world-class experts in their respective fields. To find a location in your area, visit

NewYork-Presbyterian is one of the largest and most comprehensive hospitals in the nation, ranked New York’s No. 1 hospital for the 16th consecutive year, and No. 6 in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report. Affiliated with two academic medical colleges – Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medicine, NewYork-Presbyterian brings together internationally recognized researchers and clinicians to develop and implement the latest approaches for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center is one of only three NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in New York State. NewYork-Presbyterian provides comprehensive cancer care at all of our locations across the New York Metro area including Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Learn more at