Medical Q&As

Prostate test - how often?

How often should a man in his late fifties have a prostate test done?

A prostate assessment should include a digital rectal examination and PSA (prostate specific antigen) estimation. PSA is an enzyme that is secreted by the prostate gland. The level of PSA rises when the prostate gland enlarges. Inflammation of the prostate and cancer of the gland also increase the PSA. However, this test is controversial because less than 30% of men with high PSA turn out to have prostate cancer and approximately 30% of men with prostate cancer have normal PSA. Despite the controversy the general consensus is that PSA testing should commence at 50 years of age but in the case of those with a strong family history of prostate cancer the testing should start earlier in the forties. There is no consensus regarding the frequency of testing. Some experts advocate testing every year whereas others suggest it be done much less frequently. Until such time as clearer guidelines emerge it would appear reasonable for every man to go for testing once he has passed his fiftieth birthday and thereafter to be tested at least once every five years.