“The Movember campaign, which encourages men to grow moustaches each November to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, has helped raise the profile of prostate cancer. Statistics such as “one in eight Australian men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime” provide men with an impetus to see their general practitioner (GP) and get tested for prostate cancer.
That’s good, right? Well, not quite. Not all men should be tested for prostate cancer. In fact, for some men, it can do more harm than good.
Testing for cancer
Testing for prostate cancer involves the use of two tests which can be done individually or in combination: the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
The DRE was commonly used as a front-line test for prostate cancer before the PSA test became available in the early 1990s. Use of the DRE in testing for prostate cancer is limited, since it is impossible to examine the entire prostate gland due to the anatomical location of the prostate gland itself.
Given the limitations of the DRE, the PSA test is commonly used as the front-line test for prostate cancer. PSA is a protein that is made in the prostate gland and can be measured via a blood test to assist in diagnosing prostate disease.
The PSA test is not cancer specific, as a raised PSA level may also be indicative of a benign growth of the prostate gland or an inflammation of the prostate gland.
How effective is the PSA?”