Finding prostate cancer early

Last medical review:

Anyone with a prostate can get prostate cancer. When prostate cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better. Get regular health checkups and see your healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms or are worried about your health.

Tests to find prostate cancer early

There are 2 tests available to help find prostate cancer early. If you and your healthcare provider decide that the tests are right for you, have both of them (not just one or the other).

The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures PSA, a substance made by the prostate. The normal level of PSA changes as you get older. Different prostate problems can cause higher levels of PSA, including cancer. Sometimes people with prostate cancer have PSA levels that are not higher than normal.

The PSA test can't diagnose cancer. It just indicates that there might be a problem with the prostate.

The cost of PSA testing may or may not be covered by your provincial or territorial health system or your insurance.

A digital rectal exam (DRE) is a physical exam of the prostate through the rectum. The healthcare provider inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.

Both tests are better than one

Using these tests together is better than using either test alone. PSA testing together with a DRE may help find a dangerous cancer early when it is easier to treat.

Talk to your healthcare provider

Make an informed decision about whether the PSA test is right for you by talking with your healthcare provider and considering your personal risk factors.

  • If you are at average risk of developing prostate cancer, consider testing from age 50.
  • If you are at high risk of developing prostate cancer, consider testing from age 45. Black men (including men of African or Caribbean ancestry) and those with a family history of prostate cancer are considered to be at high risk.

Your PSA levels will determine how often you get tested. The decision to stop testing is based on your PSA levels, age and general health.

Find out more about how to find prostate cancer early.

Expert review and references

  • Canadian Cancer Society | Société canadienne du cancer
  • American Cancer Society . Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer . 2021 :
  • PDQ® Screening and Prevention Editorial Board . Prostate Cancer Screening (PDQ®) – Patient Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2021 :
  • PDQ® Screening and Prevention Editorial Board . Prostate Cancer Screening (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version . Bethesda, MD : National Cancer Institute ; 2021 :
  • Andriole GL, Crawford ED, Grubb RL 3rd, et al . Prostate cancer screening in the randomized Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial: mortality results after 13 years of follow-up. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2012.
  • Scher HI, Scardino PT, Zelefsky . Cancer of the prostate. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 68:932-980.
  • Tangen CM, Neuhouser ML, Stanford JL . Prostate cancer. Thun MJ (ed.). Schottenfeld and Fraumeni Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. 4th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2018: 53:997-1018.

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

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