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Screening and Family Risk
June 16, 2021
  1. Get screened

Prostate cancer screening starts with a simple blood test, called a PSA test. PSA stands for prostate specific antigen. When should you be screened? It depends on a few risk factors. Start to talk with your doctor about prostate cancer screening when you are age 40 if you are Black or have a family history of cancer; otherwise, start the conversation at age 45.

  1. Have a conversation with your family

Cancer is a genetic disease, and genes that increase risk for cancer can be passed down in families. Prostate cancer is the most inherited of all the major cancers. The same genes that cause prostate cancer also cause other cancers, including in women. It’s important to talk about your family history of all cancers. By starting a conversation about your cancer family history, you could be saving a life — of someone in your family, or possibly your own.

Sometimes, it’s tough to get started. Male health issues, especially ones that may affect sexual organs, can be a taboo and unwelcome conversation. Men who are still sexually active may fear the potential of being “less of a man;” others may be shy to speak with their sons and daughters. While this is understandable, it is not a good approach. It is important to speak with family and friends about the importance of early detection for prostate cancer. This disease should not be swept under the rug: the later it is found, the harder it is to treat.

Risk factors that may trigger the need for genetic counseling: 
► Diagnosis of high-risk, regional, or metastatic prostate cancer
► Blood relative with a known cancer risk gene mutation (e.g., BRCA1, BRCA2, Lynch syndrome)
► Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
► A brother, father, or multiple relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer (except localized Grade Group 1) before age 60 or who died from prostate cancer
► Three or more family members on the same side of the family with one or more of the following cancers: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, or multiple other cancers
  1. Consider genetic counseling

A genetic counselor is a person who specializes in the inherited risk of cancer in families. After you have collected your cancer family history, if you are concerned, start by speaking with your primary care physician. If your doctor is also concerned, you may be referred to a genetic counselor for an evaluation.

  1. Have another conversation with your family

One conversation – the one where you tell everyone you have prostate cancer – is not enough. As more information becomes available, either because of additional test results or because of new family circumstances, such as another diagnosis in the family, it is important to update everyone in the family. This is most important for your sons and daughters.

It is critical that you collect and share your cancer family history up the family tree (with older relatives, who might hesitate to discuss such things), and also down the family tree with your children. Why? Cancers that run in families are often the most aggressive types of cancer, so it may be important that your children start screening early to avoid a life-threatening diagnosis.

  1. Continue to educate yourself

By reading this page, you are taking an important step for you and your family. Scientists learn new information about prostate cancer risk, prevention, detection, and treatment all the time.

Download any of the following free educational resources to learn more:

Risk factors that may trigger the need for genetic counseling: 
► Diagnosis of high-risk, regional, or metastatic prostate cancer
► Blood relative with a known cancer risk gene mutation (e.g., BRCA1, BRCA2, Lynch syndrome)
► Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
► A brother, father, or multiple relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer (except localized Grade Group 1) before age 60 or who died from prostate cancer
► Three or more family members on the same side of the family with one or more of the following cancers: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, or multiple other cancers

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