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Importance of Tests for Early Detection

“Guys tend to put off going to a doctor. ‘I’ll get to it later,’ they say. As if being screened for cancer is the same as replacing a broken hinge or fixing the garage door opener,” wrote a Philadelphia blogger last month. We were especially moved by his articlebecause we see the importance of regular check-ups every day.

As with all cancers, early detection is the best hope for a cure. Routine PSA screening is recommended starting at age 50 for Caucasian men and age 45 for African-American men or others at high risk for prostate cancer. Testing can be done in two ways: the Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) or Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Screening.

To test using DRE method, a doctor puts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for abnormalities which could point to cancer. The prostate gland is found just in front of the rectum, and most cancers begin in the back part of the gland, which can be felt during a rectal exam.

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a glycoprotein produced by the epithelial cells of the prostate gland. A blood test measures the amount of PSA circulating in the blood.

While there are limits to the prostate cancer screening tests used today, as neither the PSA test nor the DRE is 100% accurate, they are still the best option for early detection. Since the use of early detection tests for prostate cancer became fairly common (about 1990), the prostate cancer death rate has dropped, according to the American Cancer Society.

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