Can prostate cancer be found before the symptoms appear?

Dr. Mark S. Litwin, MD

The early detection of prostate cancer is key to its diagnosis, treatment and cure. The only way to make sure it’s diagnosed early is to have regular checkups. The checkup for prostate cancer includes two critical elements. The first is the digital rectal examination (DRE). The other element of early diagnosis is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

Yes. There are two major screening tools for prostate cancer: the digital rectal exam (DRE) and the prostate specific-antigen (PSA) blood test. The role for PSA screening has been debated in the last few years, and both PSA and DRE need to be done in the context of the patient's family history and risk factors. Prostate cancer can occur in the absence of symptoms, and if it is suspected by screening tests it can be confirmed by biopsy.

Yes. Prostate cancer screening is looking for the disease before a person has any symptoms. Two screening tests commonly used to detect prostate cancer in the absence of symptoms are the digital rectal exam (DRE), in which a doctor feels the prostate through the rectum to find hard or lumpy areas, and a blood test that detects a substance made by the prostate called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Together, these tests can detect many silent prostate cancers that have not caused symptoms. Due to the widespread use of PSA testing in the United States, approximately 90 percent of all prostate cancers are currently diagnosed at an early stage, and, consequently, men are surviving longer after diagnosis.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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