If you have prostate symptoms or concerns such as problems peeing or blood in your pee or semen, see your doctor to get checked.
Many conditions cause these symptoms, not just prostate cancer, but they should not be ignored. See your doctor to be sure.
Checks for prostate cancer symptoms normally involve a blood test, called the PSA test and a digital rectal examination (DRE).
If you have a family history of prostate cancer (a father or brother who has had prostate cancer), please talk to your doctor. You may benefit from tests starting from around age 40. Having a family history does not mean that you will get prostate cancer, but it does mean you can be more likely to develop it. We encourage all people with a prostate to ask their whānau if there is a family history of prostate cancer, as unfortunately many people only discover a family history after diagnosis.
This information is for individuals without symptoms or a family history of prostate cancer.
Prostate-specific antigen or PSA is a protein produced by the prostate. The PSA test measures the amount of PSA in a sample of blood (a blood test). Many people have a high PSA level. A high level does not always mean there is cancer.
You can choose to have a PSA test.
Making a decision to get checked for prostate cancer is different for everyone. Before making a decision, it's good to know the benefits and risks of getting checked.
We encourage you to talk to your doctor about PSA testing and there is an online tool to help your decision making:
You may or may not choose to have a PSA test based on this information.
Your doctor will support you to make an informed decision based on:
- Your own preferences. You have the right to decide for yourself.
- Discussion on PSA testing with your doctor usually begins at around 50 years.
- A PSA test may help find prostate cancer before you have any symptoms.
- If your PSA level is slightly high, you can continue to have it monitored.
- If further tests show that you have a fast-growing cancer, you can have treatment that may cure it or result in you living longer.
Potential harms and limitations
- Detecting prostate cancer early may not reduce the chance of dying from prostate cancer.
- The PSA test is not a perfect test and it can miss cancer. You should still look out for other symptoms.
- Many individuals with a raised PSA level don’t have prostate cancer.
- If you have a raised PSA test you may need a biopsy, which can have side effects such as pain, bleeding and infection.
- If subsequent tests detect prostate cancer you will be given more information about whether treatment is recommended and treatment options. Some people are treated unnecessarily for prostate cancers that would never go on to cause any problems. Treatment can have serious side-effects, such as incontinence (not getting to the toilet on time) and sexual problems.