- Dr Geraint Preest
The PSA test for prostate cancer in men WITHOUT symptoms
We're currently getting a lot of queries about this test via our reception desk and it is a subject that crops up a lot in consultations. Many men, who are without symptoms, are understandably worried about prostate cancer and often ask us if there are any tests to help detect the cancer at an early stage. This sounds like a relatively straightforward request, but it's not as simple as it sounds and there are many things to consider. It's not just a question of having a test and then getting a "yes/no" answer. Having the PSA blood test could lead to false reassurance (it can sometimes give a negative result when a patient has prostate cancer) but conversely, a lot of men getting an elevated (mildly abnormal) result may not have prostate cancer and may end up being harmed by further more invasive investigations that may not ultimately change the course of the disease even if they have it. In some men, the test may be helpful. So, as you can see, it's all a bit confusing for patients and the situation is far from clear cut! We don't refuse the PSA test for men who want it, but we do recommend that you read the following NHS link about PSA testing and take a minute to view the film below first, to see if the test is right for you.
There is currently no screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. This is because it has not been proved that the benefits would outweigh the risks.
This is an excellent information leaflet about PSA testing in the over 50s from the NHS. Whilst PSA testing can be helpful for some, it can also cause harm to others and it explains as clearly as is possible, the consequences of having - or not having - the PSA test. You can download and read it by clicking here .
You can read more about the PSA test from a reputable NHS source here
Here's a useful infographic telling you how many men may be helped, how many men may be harmed due to screening and in the red box, what is the likely overall effect of screening. Food for thought and possibly not the answer you were expecting?
Doctor Mike Evans is a Canadian Doctor who produces fantastic patient education videos and his short video about the PSA test for Prostate Cancer is excellent. We've tweeted links to this video many times, but for those who are not following us on Twitter, we thought we'd include it here. It's about 8 minutes long and if you're worried about Prostate Cancer or thinking about asking us about the PSA test, you might want to take a look at the video first to get a bit more information.