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If you are concerned about prostate cancer, or if it is time for you to think about testing, talk with your doctor. After this talk, decide if testing is the right choice for you.

Prostate cancer affects many men. It is a common cause of death for men. There are tests to find prostate cancer early. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer testing. Then decide if you want to be tested. Have this talk with your doctor starting at age 50. If you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer, have this talk starting at age 45. If 2 or more men in your family had prostate cancer before they were 65 years old, talk with your doctor about testing when you turn 40.

If you are having symptoms—such as blood in your urine, trouble having an erection, difficulty or pain with passing urine, or bone pain—you need to see your doctor now. These could be symptoms of prostate cancer. But they could be caused by other diseases, too. The only way to know for sure is to see your doctor.

Here is what experts know about prostate cancer testing and treatment.

  • Testing will find prostate cancer earlier than if no testing is done.

  • Testing for prostate cancer is performed with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test with or without a rectal exam.

  • Testing is not perfect. Some men with increased PSA in their blood may not have prostate cancer. And some men with prostate cancer may have a PSA level that is not increased.

  • Some men who have cancer may not need to be treated right away. They still will need to be watched closely to see whether the cancer changes or grows.

  • The treatments for prostate cancer can lead to side effects. These can be problems with passing urine, problems with bowels, and/or problems having sex. For some men, these problems are mild and last for a few weeks or months. In other men, these problems last for the rest of their lives.

Here is what experts do not know about prostate cancer testing and treatment.

  • When testing finds prostate cancer, it is often not clear which men will have the type of prostate cancer that will be a serious threat to their health or cause death.

  • When testing finds prostate cancer, it is often not clear which men will have the type of prostate cancer that is not likely to affect their health.

  • It is often not known which men will do well with treatment.

  • It is often not known which men will do well with no treatment.

When you think about getting a test for prostate cancer, also think about what you want for yourself. Ask yourself these questions.

  • Is it important for me to know that I have prostate cancer even if my chances of surviving it are not improved?

  • Am I willing to be treated even though I may not benefit from treatment?

  • If I choose to be treated, can I live with the side effects, if they occur?

Be sure to discuss these and your own questions with your doctor. Then, you decide whether a test for prostate cancer is the right choice for you.

For more information on prostate cancer and prostate cancer testing, please call us anytime day or night at 1-800-227-2345. To order copies of the American Cancer Society's informational brochure from which this Patient Page was adapted, call and ask for item number 2650.