Screening is a test given to people with a higher chance of having a health problem so that information or early treatment can be offered. When there is a set schedule that invites people to these appointments, we call this a ‘screening programme.’
There is currently no national screening programme for prostate cancer in the UK. This is because it has not been proven that the benefits of testing outweigh the risks. Research is ongoing to see if there are certain groups of people who would benefit from prostate screening more than others.
Testing a person’s PSA level is an unreliable indicator for prostate cancer. Around 1 in 7 of those with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels. Occasionally, this test can give a false positive, showing cancer where there is none. This is why it is recommended to confirm a potential tumour with an MRI scan before undergoing biopsies.
The PSA test can find aggressive prostate cancer that needs treatment, but it can also find slow-growing cancer that may never cause symptoms or shorten life. Some people may face difficult decisions about treatment, although this is less likely now that most people are offered an MRI scan before further tests and treatment.