Prostate Cancer Screening: Questions for the Doctor
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States. It’s more common in older men than younger men.
Depending on your age and other factors, your doctor may recommend getting screened (tested) for prostate cancer.
If you’re age 55 to 69:
- The decision to get screened is a personal choice that you can make after talking with your doctor
- You might decide that you’re okay with the risks of getting screened, or you might decide the risks aren't worth it
- Together, you and your doctor can decide what's right for you
If you’re age 70 or older:
- Prostate screening isn't recommended because the risks outweigh the benefits for most men
- This is true even if you’re at a higher risk for prostate cancer
- If you have questions about prostate cancer, talk to your doctor
Many men have questions about prostate cancer screening. The information below can help you start a conversation with your doctor or nurse about the risks and benefits of screening.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that helps make semen (the fluid that carries sperm). It’s located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
Any man can get prostate cancer. But the risk is higher for men who:
- Are age 50 or older
- Are African American
- Have a father, brother, or son who had prostate cancer
Why isn’t prostate screening recommended for all men?
All screening tests have both risks and benefits. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to get screened:
- Many prostate cancers grow so slowly that men won't have symptoms or die from the cancer
- Treatment for prostate cancer can cause problems like erectile dysfunction (impotence) or loss of bladder control
- Prostate screening sometimes says you have cancer when you really don’t, and follow-up tests can cause problems like infections
What do I ask the doctor?
When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You can also ask a family member or friend to go with you and take notes.
Print this list of questions and take it to your next appointment.
- Am I at high risk for prostate cancer?
- Are there things I can do to lower my risk for prostate cancer?
- What are the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and treatment for me?
- Are there any warning signs or symptoms of prostate cancer to look out for?
- If the results of the screening test show that I might have prostate cancer, what are my options for diagnosis and treatment?
Content last updated March 24, 2021
This information on prostate cancer was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.
Rebecca Chasan, Ph.D.
Chief, Science Writing and Review Branch
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health