Ask the Doctors Men's Health Patient Care

When to Get Screened for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men (after skin cancer) and one of the leading causes of cancer death among men in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that many prostate cancers are detected late, when treatment is most difficult. With early detection, prostate cancer is very curable.

Many men may have recently put off important medical appointments, including prostate cancer screening and regular checkups. It is important to discuss men’s health topics with a doctor, but it can be difficult for some men to have these conversations. Discussing sex, prostate health and other men’s health problems like low testosterone can be uncomfortable, but understanding these conditions and how they affect overall health is critically important for every man.

Urologists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have access to the most advanced prostate cancer screening tools. Washington University Urologists can help men know their risk and, if they are diagnosed, the severity of their condition. Chief of Urology Gerald Andriole, MD, explains the importance of prostate cancer screening and how early detection can save lives.

Prostate Cancer Screening Frequently Asked Questions

What are the screening guidelines for prostate cancer?

The general recommendation for prostate cancer is to start being examined by your doctor and have a PSA test at the age of 50 if you’re a man at average risk for prostate cancer. PSA, or prostate specific antigen, is a protein produced by cancerous and non-cancerous tissue in the prostate.

If you have a family history of prostate cancer, or if you’re an African American man, you are at higher-than-average risk for prostate cancer. For these men, the recommendation is to start getting tested at age 40. This is so crucial for prostate cancer, because it’s all about early detection. If we can find it early, we can cure it.

Not enough men are being screened for prostate cancer. We need to get the word out and we need to rectify this.

How do you screen for prostate cancer?

One way of screening for prostate cancer is with a PSA test. This measures the level of PSA in your blood. There are other types of tests that can help us diagnose prostate cancer, including new imaging technologies. MRI scans and other types of “next gen imaging” can help us find prostate cancer early in the game while the treatment options are most effective.

Can you prevent prostate cancer?

There are three things that we know can cause prostate cancer:

  • Genes: You can’t control your genes. Those come from your mom and dad. But there is a genetic test that can tell you whether you are at average, above average or really high risk for prostate cancer. A man who has a family history can determine if it is genetically based. We can use that knowledge to guide our screening and testing.
  • Diet: Eat in moderation. Don’t overdo the fats, proteins, red meats. Eat colorful fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A healthy diet may help reduce your risk.
  • Lifestyle: Some studies have shown that men who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for developing prostate cancer. We live in a stressful society. Particularly, urban societies, like St. Louis, have been associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. We need to take a more holistic approach to doing the right things to be gentle with ourselves and each other.

Why is early detection for prostate cancer so important?

The only way we’re going stop men from dying of prostate cancer is if we detect the cancer when it is contained within the prostate.

The two ways of curing prostate cancer are surgery to remove the prostate and irradiating the prostate.

Unfortunately, if the cancer is detected after it has already spread outside the prostate, we cannot cure those men.

If we miss the opportunity to cure a man by detecting the cancer too late, we will not do anything to reduce the death rate for prostate cancer. We’ve got to sharpen our focus on finding cancers before they spread.

What are the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer?

Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. That is why starting these screening tests early is so important.

More advanced prostate cancer can cause symptoms, such as:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Trouble with getting an erection (erectile dysfunction or ED)
  • Pain in other areas of the body from cancer that has spread to the bones

We cannot rely on the development of symptoms and complaints, because it’s just too late. We want to catch prostate cancer before it causes any symptoms. We have to start PSA testing, MRI scans of the prostate and other ways of testing and screening for prostate cancer early in the game.

Prostate Cancer CHARM Clinic at Christian Hospital

The high-risk prostate cancer clinic at Christian Hospital is the only clinic of its kind in the St. Louis region. The clinic is a collaborative effort that includes all of our Washington University urologists at Christian Hospital.

The reason we started this clinic is to offer the most advanced screening and treatments for prostate cancer. Treatments for prostate cancer have changed dramatically in just the last three to five years. It would be very difficult for non-specialist urologists to keep up with all of the changes. Our specialists stay up to date on all treatment options.

We have a specialized clinic that can offer all of these treatments and do it well. We call it the CHARM Clinic because it’s an acronym: the Clinic to take care of High risk, Advanced, Recurrent and Metastatic prostate cancer.

The team at Christian Hospital has put together all of the tools we need to mount an effective CHARM offensive against prostate cancer.

For more information about Washington University Urology at Christian Hospital, please visit the Christian Hospital website. To schedule an appointment with a Washington University Urologist, please fill out the online appointment form or call 314-362-8200.

Watch Now: Christian Hospital Men’s Health Panel Discussion