What is cancer screening?

Cancer screening is the process of routinely checking for cancer when there are no symptoms. Screening for prostate cancer consists of the digital rectal exam and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

In a digital rectal exam, a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormalities in the prostate gland. The PSA test is a simple blood test that determines the level of PSA – a protein produced by the prostate gland – in the bloodstream.

The thinking in the medical community on the benefit of the PSA test has evolved. Even though the PSA test is often billed as a simple blood test that can detect cancer early and save men's lives, there is mixed evidence that the PSA test really does save lives. Opponents of the test argue that without a clear-cut benefit, screening isn't worth the risk because treatment carries a risk of serious side effects, such as impotence and incontinence.