What are the benefits and limitations of testing for prostate cancer?
Almost every test or procedure has benefits and limitations. You might think of these as pros and cons. Before having any test, it’s important to be aware of them so that you’re making an informed decision that’s right for you. Testing for prostate cancer early – before you have any symptoms – is your choice.
- PSA testing reassures you if the result is normal.
- If the result is higher than what is normal for your age, it tells you that you need further testing.
- PSA testing may help find prostate cancer early before you have symptoms.
- PSA testing may help find cancer before it spreads beyond the prostate when it is easier to treat.
- Sometimes the PSA test suggests you have prostate cancer when you don’t (called a false positive).
- The PSA test may not detect cancer even if you have it (called a false negative).
- PSA testing can’t tell how dangerous the prostate cancer is.
- PSA testing may find a type of prostate cancer that grows slowly and may never cause problems or need treatment (called overdiagnosis).
- PSA testing may lead to unnecessary treatment that can have side effects.
Some men may find it stressful to know they have cancer but aren’t being treated for it. But sometimes the side effects from treatment can be harmful.