Georgina from Plympton, South Australia, Australia asked:

Is it true that prostate cancer isn’t routinely screened for because most men have some form of non-aggressive prostate cancer?

Man at doctor for prostate screening

More people die of prostate cancer than breast cancer, so why isn't there a screening program available to men?

Our answer

There is no organised screening program for prostate cancer anywhere in the world because the only available tools used for early detection, the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE), are not accurate enough for population screening. The PSA test, either with or without DRE, does not adequately distinguish between slow-growing prostate cancers that are unlikely to cause problems in a man’s lifetime and aggressive, potentially fatal prostate cancers. Autopsies indicate that indolent (slow-growing) cancers are present in large numbers of older men. However, that?s not the reason there are no organised prostate cancer screening programs. The reason is that the PSA test – either with or without digital rectal examination – is not accurate enough for population screening. A large study of PSA in Europe showed that for every man who avoided a prostate cancer death through PSA, 48 underwent invasive treatment (often with significant side effects) for no benefit. Cancer Council advises men who are concerned about prostate cancer to talk to their GP so they can make an informed decision about being tested. The tragic reality is that around 3000 Australian men die of prostate cancer each year. We urgently need a better test for this disease.

This page was last updated on: July 10, 2014

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