Screening all men for prostate cancer could cut deaths from the disease by up to 20%, a recent study has found. This calls the current NHS position into question, which has argued that prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings are unreliable and have been known to produce false positive results in the past.

The team of American researchers examined two major studies that assessed the benefits of nationwide screenings. The researchers concluded that both studies demonstrated a reduction in prostate cancer death as a result of PSA screening and that the screening could save a ‘significant’ number of lives.

Based on their findings, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the team has suggested that current guidelines around PSA should be reviewed.

What is a PSA test?

A PSA test is a test used to screen for prostate cancer. It can detect early signs of an enlarged prostate and is the most common initial test for men who are worried about prostate cancer. PSA is a protein, made only by the prostate gland, which leaks into the blood. A raised PSA level may be a sign of prostate cancer, however, it could also mean other less serious conditions, such as an enlarged prostate or a urinary infection.

What does a PSA test involve?

When attending a PSA test, your GP will carry out a blood test and a prostate examination. Many men find a prostate examination embarrassing, and your GP will be well aware of this. There’s no need to feel worried about your prostate examination — it isn’t painful and should only last a couple of minutes.

If you feel sensitive about having a rectal examination, you can discuss your options with your GP beforehand. Some people prefer to be examined by a GP of the same sex or to have a family member or friend present in the room.

When attending a prostate test, you’ll be asked to remove your lower clothing, lie on your left side and bring your knees up to your chest. Your GP will then check for any abnormalities in the prostate gland. Pressing on the prostate doesn’t hurt, but it may make you feel like urinating. The prostate should be smooth, so any hard or lumpy areas can signify the presence of prostate cancer. After a couple of minutes, you’ll be able to get dressed again and your GP will sit down and go through any findings with you.

Should I go for a PSA test?

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK, affecting almost 40,000 men every year. According to Prostate Cancer UK, men are at a higher risk if they’re aged over 50 or have a family history of the disease (such as a previous case of cancer in a relative). Black men are also more likely to get prostate cancer, though the reason behind this is currently unknown.

Where can I get checked in Richmond?

In Richmond, there are a number of places you can go for a prostate cancer screening. Seymour House Surgery run PSA tests and are currently accepting new patients. For a private service, you can also get screened at Richmond Practice, who offer longer appointment slots so you’ll have more time to talk with your GP.

If you are concerned you might be at risk of prostate cancer or would like to find out more about getting a PSA test, visit the NHS Choices page for more information.