What is the best test for identifying prostate cancer?
Dr. Michael Koch, a highly rated urologist and chairman of the urology department at IU School of Medicine, recommends the PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, blood test to men over the age of 40 and younger than 70, especially if they have risk factors such as a family history of prostate cancer. The PSA test measures a protein produced in the prostate gland, which can signal cancer if detected at higher-than-normal levels.
The American Cancer Society neither advocates for nor against prostate cancer screening, as research hasn't proven whether potential benefits outweigh potential harms of testing and treatment of the typically slow-growing cancer, says Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the Cancer Society. "It causes people to have medical interventions that could be harmful," Brawley says, including surgery to remove the prostate, which can cause impotence, incontinence and even death.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended against screening healthy men, but Bawley says men should discuss the risks and benefits with their doctor before deciding.
For men choosing to undergo an in-office PSA test, Healthcare Blue Book puts the fair market price at $22, based on what providers typically accept from insurers as full payment. HCBB prices the office visit at $25 to $100.
Koch believes the benefits of catching aggressive cancer early in younger men outweighs risks of follow-up rectal exams, biopsies and surgeries. "You need to choose: Do you want to treat some men unnecessarily or let young men die from a disease they don't need to die from?" he says, noting prostate cancer is the second leading cancer killer in men.