Doctors recommend annual prostate cancer screenings

The American Cancer society says prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. About 1 in 41 men will die of prostate cancer.

Posted: Sep 3, 2019 11:31 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2019 10:38 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- The American Cancer Society says prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men. About 1 in 41 men will die of prostate cancer. 

Doctors at Providence Medford Medical Center say the most common sign of prostate cancer is none at all. 

"I had no symptoms of prostate cancer that I was aware of," said Eric Werner, a 57-year-old prostate cancer survivor. 

Werner tested positive after his first screening in almost 10 years. 

"I've never had anybody say if you do nothing you won't live five years," said Werner. 

Doctors say men with a normal risk should start getting screened at age 50. High risk patients, such as men with history of cancer or African-American men, should start around age 40 to 45. The screening consists of a blood test looking at the levels of prostate specific antigens (PSA). These levels, and what they mean, change with age. That's why doctors say annual screening is essential.

Doctors will also perform a digital rectal exam to feel the texture of the prostate.

"The normal texture of your prostate should feel like the tip of your nose. If you feel anything that is nodular or irregular or firm, the bone right here [wrist bone], that's considered an abnormal exam," says Dr. Kadi-Ann Bryan with Rogue Valley Urology. 

If the test is abnormal patients will usually get a trans-rectal ultrasound guided biopsy to take samples.

While all of this sounds fairly straightforward, screening for prostate cancer has been met with controversy. The side effects of removing the prostate are life changing. There can be issues with urine control and sexual function, among others.

Because of this, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force previously recommended against annual PSA screening.

"Unfortunately what you then started to see was a lot of patients would come in with very advanced disease that we were not able to treat," said Dr. Kadi-Ann Bryan. 

The task force has since rescinded this, saying the decision should be an individual one.

Werner says his only regret is not insisting on being screened often enough to detect his cancer earlier, "I had no symptoms, and if you catch it soon enough you have many, many options." 

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