You feel young and healthy; you’re in your 30s or 40s and still in the prime of your life. You get regular medical checkups, but anything more comprehensive than that hasn’t really crossed your mind. You’re too young to be thinking about special screenings and tests. After all, 40 is the new 30, right? Well, you might want to think again. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men. But the good news is it’s 100 percent treatable if caught early. Most men don’t think about getting tested before the age of 50, and while Medicare and other insurance plans cover screenings for men 50 and up, the younger guys are left out in the cold. And for some, getting tested earlier could have saved their lives.
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the best way to catch prostate cancer in its earlier stages. In a nutshell, PSA is a substance made by the gland cells in the prostate (both normal cells and cancer cells). The PSA blood test will measure your PSA levels, and if they are elevated, it may indicate prostate cancer or prostatitis (an enlarged prostate). Most men have a PSA level under 4 nanograms per milliliter when they are healthy. However, the risk of prostate cancer increases as your PSA level increases. If your PSA level is about 4 but below 10, you have about a one in four chance of having prostate cancer. But if your PSA level is above 10, your chances increase to around 50 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
Here are a few reasons why men should consider being screened earlier for prostate cancer:
You Have a Family History. Like many other forms of cancer, prostate cancer tends to run in families. If you have a father or a brother with the disease, your chances of developing it are almost double. Actually, if you have a brother who developed prostate cancer, your chances are even higher than if your father had it. Your risks go up the more family members you have that had or have prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, you should definitely be getting tested early and regularly.
To Establish a Baseline. No matter what age you are, all men should get a PSA test. It’s important to establish a PSA “baseline,” so that you can, over time, monitor any changes in your PSA levels. Get tested even if you are below the age of 40 so you know what your normal PSA level is. Then doctors can use that for comparison in the future. Proactive blood testing like this can help you monitor your levels and possibly detect and treat disease before it’s too late.
For Continual Monitoring. Since the exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown, there are no current guidelines for preventing prostate cancer. You may be thinking, “If I can’t be proactive in preventing prostate cancer, what can I do?” The answer is simple; you need to keep an eye on the situation with regular testing. The probability of finding prostate cancer early is high because the disease usually progresses very slowly. If you are at a higher risk, start getting regular tests at the age of 40. If you are at a lower risk, start getting regular tests at the age of 50. Get tested every year after the age of 40 if you have more than one risk factor for prostate cancer or your PSA levels naturally sit a higher level.
Not only can prostate cancer be caught early, but it has amazing survival rates when you do catch it early. For those who catch the disease while it is still in the prostate, the five-year survival rate is 100 percent. Even if you catch the cancer after it has spread to the surrounding areas of the prostate — but before it spreads elsewhere — the five-year survival rate is still 100 percent. However, if the cancer isn’t caught until it travels to distant parts of the body beyond the prostate, the five-year survival rate drops to just 28 percent. So, if you’re above the age of 40 and have one or more risk factors, it’s important to get tested regularly to keep an eye out for the beginnings of prostate cancer.
Talk to our medical assistants at Any Lab Test Now about getting a PSA Test today! Now is the time to take control of your prostate health. If you wait, it could be too late.