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Men’s guide to prostate cancer screening

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. And there are benefits and risks to getting screened. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting older means you might be making more trips to the doctor. Even if you’re feeling better than ever, your risk of certain health problems increases as you age. Regular check-ins with your doctor can help you stay on top of your health and catch problems early.

One health issue many older men face is the possibility of developing prostate cancer. The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system. And besides skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It makes up about 15% of all new cancer cases in the United States. But it’s also highly treatable and survivable. The 5-year relative survival rate is more than 97%. That means that an estimated 97% of men with prostate cancer are still alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Any cancer diagnosis can be scary. And when it comes to prostate cancer, you may not even know you have it. That’s why screening tests can be helpful for catching it early.

But prostate cancer screening tests have risks as well as rewards, and there’s no set guidelines for routine screening. Whether to get screened is a decision you and your doctor can make together.

Here’s what you need to know about prostate cancer, how you can be screened for it and what you can do to prevent it.

You may be able to get certain preventive screenings with no copay or coinsurance if you have a qualified health insurance plan. Explore your options, or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is a type of cancer that affects your prostate. That’s a walnut-sized gland located between your bladder and penis. It plays an important role in your reproductive health: it supplies the fluids that sperm need to survive, and it helps push semen out during ejaculation.

Prostate cancer forms when cells in the prostate grow out of control, leading to a tumor in your prostate. Symptoms of prostate cancer can vary from person to person. You may not have any symptoms at all — that’s why screening is so important.

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Difficulty starting urination or a weak or interrupted flow
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Persistent pain in your back, hips or pelvis
  • Trouble emptying your bladder completely
  • Urinating often, especially at night

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of an issue with your prostate, including cancer, so it’s important to let your doctor know.

Who is at risk of prostate cancer?

If you have a prostate, there’s about a 1 in 8 chance that you could be diagnosed with prostate cancer in your lifetime. But certain risk factors raise your chances of getting the disease. Those include:

  • Your age. The older you are, the greater your risk of getting prostate cancer. Some 93% of new prostate cancers are diagnosed in men 55 and older.
  • Family history. Cancer can run in families, thanks to certain genetic changes that you may inherit. About 9% of prostate cancer cases are thought to be caused by genetics. You may have a higher risk if you have a father, brother or son who has had prostate cancer — especially if they were diagnosed at a young age. Being diagnosed under age 55 is a sign that genetics are at play.
  • Race. In the United States, Black men are about 60% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and they are twice as likely to die from it. If you’re Black, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about getting screened at around age 45.

Having one of these risk factors doesn’t guarantee that you will get prostate cancer. But it does mean you’re at a higher risk. So, you’ll want to talk to your doctor about taking steps to protect yourself, such as getting screened. Early detection through screening can greatly improve your chances of successful treatment if you do develop prostate cancer.

Got questions about health insurance? Get more details online, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

How do you get screened for prostate cancer?

The most common screening test for prostate cancer is a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. Your doctor will take a sample of your blood and check the PSA level. PSA is a protein made by your prostate. High levels of PSA in your blood can be a sign of prostate cancer.

PSA test results can be hard to interpret. PSA levels can be affected by other prostate problems, such as an enlarged prostate or a prostate infection. Certain medications can also raise PSA levels. And some men simply make more PSA than others.

Your doctor will need to interpret your results and decide if further testing is needed. They may recommend yearly PSA tests so they can monitor changes in your PSA levels over time.

Ready to explore insurance plans where you live?

Is prostate cancer screening covered by insurance?

Medicare covers a PSA blood test once a year for men over 50 at no cost to you. If you’re not on Medicare yet, check with your health plan to see if a PSA test is covered.

It’s worth noting that routine prostate cancer screenings may not be covered as one of the essential preventive services under the Affordable Care Act. That means you may have to pay a copay or coinsurance for your test.

Are you starting to think about Medicare? Call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

What are the recommendations for prostate cancer screening?

There is no standard recommendation for routine prostate cancer screening for men. While early detection is important, screening does pose some risks. In particular, PSA tests can provide a false positive result. That’s when the test shows elevated PSA levels but you don’t actually have cancer.

If your levels are elevated, your doctor may recommend further testing, such as a prostate biopsy. To do a biopsy, your doctor will take a small sample of tissue from your prostate to check for cancer cells.

According to the National Cancer Institute, only about 1 in 4 men who get a prostate biopsy following a high PSA test are found to have prostate cancer.

Whether you need to get screened will depend on your age and unique risk factors. If you’re 55 or older, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening. If you’re Black, it’s a good idea to have that conversation earlier, around age 45. Your doctor can help you decide if a PSA test is right for you.


For informational purposes only. This information is compiled by UnitedHealthcare and does not diagnose problems or recommend specific treatment. Services and medical technologies referenced herein may not be covered under your plan. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?” August 25. 2022. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Is Prostate Cancer?” August 25, 2022. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Is Screening for Prostate Cancer?” August 25, 2022. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?” February 7, 2023. Retrieved from “Preventive care benefits for adults.” Retrieved from Accessed May 24, 2023. “Prostate cancer screenings.” Retrieved from Accessed May 24, 2023.

National Cancer Institute. “Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer.” Retrieved from Accessed May 24, 2023.

National Cancer Institute. “Prostate Cancer Prevention (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version” March 2, 2022. Retrieved from

National Cancer Institute. “Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test.” March 11, 2022. Retrieved from

University of Washington School of Medicine. “Black men should start prostate-cancer screening at age 45.” June 30, 2021. Retrieved from

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