The bottom line

For a small number of patients, screening offers a chance to catch aggressive cancers before it's too late. Therefore, for some men, the PSA screening test can be a lifesaver. At the same time, PSA screening causes thousands of men every year to have needless biopsies and other medical procedures that carry the risk of bleeding and infection, and cause unnecessary anxiety.

Further, screening leads to treatment of a lot of cancers that aren't life-threatening. In addition, all the treatments have side effects and may erode a man's quality of life.

You and your doctor must work together to make an informed decision on PSA testing. You and your doctor will review the pros and cons of the PSA screening test, your own risk factors for prostate disease, and your comfort level regarding cancer risk versus worries about treatment side effects.

If you do choose to have the PSA screening test, make sure you have it along with the digital rectal exam. Having both screening tests is the most likely way not to miss a cancer.

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