Too Old for a Prostate Exam?
January 17, 2019
Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death for men in the United States. Approximately 1 in every 41 men will die from prostate cancer in the US, which is shocking when you consider that prostate cancer is relatively easy to cure if detected early. This has led to a large movement to bring awareness to prostate cancer and other prostate-related issues (enlarged prostate, prostatitis, etc.) with hope to reduce deaths among men, and generate more money for research.
Prostate cancer and breast cancer share many similarities: both are the leading form of cancer in the respective gender; however, breast cancer receives far more attention and funding than prostate cancer. The goal of the prostate awareness movement is not to take away from breast cancer funding or awareness, but rather to increase awareness and funding for prostate cancer.
When to Get Screened
The common recommendation for prostate cancer screening is around the age of 50. Typically, men should get a prostate exam, or PSA test, every year after 50 at their yearly physical check up. Yearly exams should ensure that any prostate issues are caught early in the development, which will make treatment and recovery easier.
If you have a family history of, or pre-disposition to, prostate cancer or other prostate-related issues, your doctor may recommend testing before 50. It is important to have conversations about your prostate health early on, so that no complications arise.
Prostate Cancer and Incontinence
Prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, other prostate issues, and the treatment of the prostate can result in temporary or permanent incontinence. This occurs because the prostate is essential to the male urinary tract. If you experience incontinence following your prostate treatment, your Urologist may recommend using incontinence products or other treatments (such as kegel exercises, diet and fluid intake modifications, among others).
Can You be Too Old for a Prostate Exam?
Surprisingly, yes. In 2008 the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended against screening for prostate cancer in men over 75. While there is some disagreement about this as adults continue to live longer and longer, research and clinical experts say that after the age of 75 prostate cancer tests are generally not necessary. The theory as to why men over 75 do not need to be tested is because the cancer will be clinically insignificant and the adult will not benefit from therapy. In simple terms, it is unlikely for a man over 75, who hasn’t tested positive for prostate cancer previously, to have prostate cancer become serious enough to cause complications or death. The US Preventive Services Task Force concluded in 2008 that the harm (including anxiety, side affects, and increased health care costs) outweighs the benefits.
So, if you are a male over or approaching 75, you may not need to be tested from prostate cancer anymore. However, just like with the increasing retirement age for Social Security benefits, due to increasing life expectancy, what is now 75 may soon become 80 or 85. It is always recommended to discuss these topics with your doctor! If you are in good health at 75 or 80, your doctor may recommend continuing prostate testing/exams.
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