Screening for Prostate Cancer

More cases of prostate cancer are being diagnosed in the United States than ever before. Reasons for this are that increasing numbers of men are being screened for the disease, and that doctors use ever-more-sensitive tests that are able to pick up on the slightest changes in prostate tissue. Many prostate cancers are also being caught at an early stage, when the disease is usually more curable.

But with these advances come challenges. That’s because not all prostate cancers are alike. While some spread early and require treatment, many others grow very slowly and likely won’t cause serious problems over the course of a man’s lifetime — even if left untreated.

This leaves many men feeling anxious or confused about screening and treatment for prostate cancer. We’ve developed special screening guidelines to help you better understand when and how often to get screened for the disease. And we also offer active surveillance as a form of treatment for men with slow-growing prostate cancer that may have been detected during screening but doesn’t pose an immediate risk.

Screening Tests

Prostate cancer screening tests include:

  • Digital rectal exam, or DRE. During this test, a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for swelling, inflammation, or other abnormalities, such as hardness or a nodule (a small, rounded bump).
  • PSA test, which measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is a protein made by cells in the prostate gland. Learn more about the PSA test.

How frequently you get follow-up PSA testing and whether you should get additional testing depends on several factors:

  • your PSA test results
  • your age
  • whether other family members have had prostate cancer
  • future changes in your PSA level
  • how healthy you are overall

Learn more about Memorial Sloan Kettering’s prostate cancer screening guidelines.