Urologic Oncologist Encourages PSA Screening

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Urologic Oncologist Encourages PSA Screening

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, and while it typically grows slowly, it can be deadly. Physicians at Stephenson Cancer Center at OU Health recommend that men begin annual prostate cancer screening at age 50 -- earlier if family history suggests greater risk.

Urologic oncologist Michael Cookson, M.D., said prostate cancer screening can reduce death rates by as much as 25 percent.

“Screening is a way to find the disease early, when treatment is likely to have the most favorable results,” he said.

Cookson said there are three main factors that increase risk for the development of prostate cancer:

Age: In the United States, 69 is the average age at which prostate cancer is diagnosed. After age 69, prostate cancer becomes more common than any other cancer in men or women. About 13 in 100 American men will face prostate cancer.

Race: African-American males are most likely to develop prostate cancer, and the death rate is twice as high in this population. Cancer is more likely to occur earlier and be more severe than prostate cancer in other men.

Family history: Risk doubles for men who have a father or brother who developed prostate cancer. This risk is even higher if the diagnosis occurred at age 55 or younger, or affected three or more family members. Risk is also higher if other family members have had breast, colon or pancreatic cancers.

Prostate cancer screening is done through a simple blood draw from the arm. The blood is analyzed to measure the level of PSA -- prostate specific antigen. PSA is present in small amounts in men with healthy prostates. Increased PSA in the blood may indicate a prostate disorder, such as prostate cancer.

“While there are other reasons for a high PSA level, screening is a helpful tool in diagnosing prostate cancer,” Cookson said. “PSA levels also help us see if prostate cancer is progressing.”

PSA is produced by the prostate gland, a small walnut-sized structure located below the bladder in men. PSA levels rise or fall for many reasons, influenced by factors such as race, age, medications, the presence of other prostate conditions or infections, or even recent sexual activity.

“Doctors consider all these factors, as well as the rate at which PSA levels may rise over time,” Cookson said. “It’s important to discuss prostate health and screening each time a man visits his physician for a check-up. On matters of men’s health overall, PSA is part of the big picture and should not be ignored.”