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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Screening for Prostate Cancer

Screening can help to find cancer before it causes symptoms. There are screening tests for prostate cancer. The goal is to find cancer that has a high risk of spreading before it spreads.
There is not a standard test to screen for prostate cancer. Two common tests are listed below.

Prostate Specific Antigen

Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is made by the prostate. It can be measured with a blood test. Levels can increase with prostate cancer. It can also increase because of:
Age, race, and other things can affect your PSA levels. Your doctor will look at all of these factors when looking at the PSA levels. If the level is abnormal for you, other tests may be done. A prostate biopsy is often the next step. It will remove a piece of prostate for testing to look for cancer.

Digital Rectal Exam

The prostate sits near the rectum. The doctor can feel the prostate through the wall of the rectum. This type of exam is called digital rectal exam (DRE). The health care provider inserts a gloved finger into the rectum. They use gentle pressure to feel for problems in the prostate. The US Preventive Services Task does not recommend DRE as a screening test. It may instead be used after an abnormal PSA test or symptoms.


Finding prostate cancer early. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/finding-prostate-cancer-early.html. Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed December 18, 2019.
Prostate cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/prostate-cancer-screening. Updated August 23, 2019. Accessed December 18, 2019.
Prostate cancer screening—patient version. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/patient/prostate-screening-pdq. Updated April 10, 2019. Accessed December 18, 2019.
What tests can detect prostate cancer early? American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/early-detection/tests.html. Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed December 18, 2019.
4/1/2014 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance https://www.dynamed.com/quality-improvement/choosing-wisely: Choosing Wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Updated October 18, 2018. Accessed October 29, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 12/2019
  • Update Date: 12/01/2020