Prostate cancer screening is done to identify whether one is suffering from prostate cancer or not. There are two methods of screening being used currently; one is called digital rectal examination and the other prostate specific antigen.
Digital Rectal Examination: As the name suggests, this examination is conducted through the human rectum. Doctors use a lubricated gloved finger and insert it into the rectum in order to feel any lumps or abnormality in the prostate. This examination allows the medical practitioner to identify diseases related to the rectum, the anus, the prostate, the seminal vesicles, the bladder and the perineum. An abnormal result for this test would mean:
• a prostate problem which includes prostate enlargement or prostate cancer
• bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract
• tumor of the rectum
• other problems within the rectum.
Prostate Specific Antigen - This test is used to look for PSA, a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland and is usually found in high amount in men with prostate cancer i.e. the risk of prostate cancer increases with rising levels of PSA. One must, however, be aware of the fact that a high PSA level does not always suggest prostate cancer. A number of benign prostate conditions can be the cause for a high level of PSA, hence, there is a risk of getting wrongfully diagnosed The PSA test has been controversial and is now considered harmful because overtreatment may expose a patient unnecessarily to the potential complications and harmful side-effects of treatments.
To Screen or Not to Screen - The choice of going for a screening is outweighed by the “overtreatment” concern according to which the prostate specific antigen (PSA) or digital rectal examination (DRE) can detect certain prostate problems that can be passed on without any specific medical treatment. Therefore, when someone gets treated for it, it tends to be an over treatment. Once treatment starts, the various side-effects crop up, leaving you much sicker than before. The common side-effects are:
• erectile dysfunction
• urinary incontinence
• problems in bowel control from radiation therapy and risk of developing serious complications from surgery and even death.
To top it all, the screening process in itself can be dangerous as it leads to adverse psychological effects like anxiety and depression from threat to one’s masculine identity.
Read more articles on Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis