Harvard Men's Health Watch

Should you skip your PSA test?

The science is uncertain for now, so arm yourself with deep knowledge of the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening.

In May 2012, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued its final report concerning screening for prostate cancer using the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. After weighing the evidence, the expert panel concluded that PSA screening for prostate cancer should not be offered routinely to men—typically as part of a regular physical exam. Screening means testing a seemingly healthy person for signs of a hidden disease, like prostate cancer.

This voluntary recommendation, aimed at physicians, triggered numerous media reports that presented men with conflicting expert opinions and raised serious questions without offering clear answers. Should you get a PSA test? If so, when and how often? If you follow the USPSTF advice and decline PSA testing, do you risk being diagnosed someday with advanced disease that might have been treated earlier and, possibly, cured?

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