Should Men Get Prostate Cancer Screening?

"The bottom line is that if a patient [or] doctor decides to do a PSA test, they should be prepared [and] committed to a full discussion about the options -- including doing nothing -- if the test is positive," Johnson said.

Johnson also recommends that men who are first diagnosed with prostate cancer seek a second opinion regarding their options for treatment.

"I now routinely recommend that any man who has been told he needs treatment for prostate cancer seek a second opinion from a non-surgeon, non-radiologist resource," Johnson said.

Middle Ground for Prostate Cancer

According to Benson, there are general rules for treating prostate cancer that patients could benefit from understanding.

For the most part, any man younger than 65 whose cancer is determined to be aggressive by a biopsy should undergo treatment for the disease. On the other end of the scale, any man who is older than 75 with nonaggressive cancer "almost certainly doesn't need treatment," Benson said.

However, Benson said there is a "middle ground where some need treatment and some don't."

Benson explained that men between the ages of 65 and 75 are often faced with a difficult decision regarding whether to treat the disease, considering the relatively high chance that they would die of another cause before the cancer could kill them.

What Age Should Men Screen for Prostate Cancer?

Also included in this "middle ground" are younger men -- generally younger than 50 -- with nonaggressive forms of prostate cancer.

"We can't predict that the cancer will stay around and not be a problem for the rest of the 30 or 40 or 50 years of their life, but I would wager that 40 years is a long time for nothing to happen," Benson said.

It is precisely these patients in the "middle ground" who Benson believes would benefit most from watchful waiting on the disease. If these patients decide to forego immediate treatment, Benson asks that these patients return every 12 to 18 months for repeat biopsies.

According to Benson, about 90 percent of his patients choose not to take on treatment immediately when he explains the benefits and drawbacks of choosing the "watchful waiting" approach.

However, some experts say it has proven difficult to impossible to implement this strategy with every patient who receives a prostate cancer diagnosis.

"When dealing with cancer, emotions ... are often more influential than data," said Dr. Lee Green, professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan.

Green refers specifically to the reluctance of many patients to simply "do nothing" about their cancer -- even if delaying treatment for the disease could mean avoiding an extremely painful and unnecessary treatment.

"Our patients are taught to think of cancer as something to be removed immediately by any means possible -- surgery, chemotherapy [or] holistic medicine," said Dr. Geeta Nayyar, a assistant professor of medicine at George Washington University. "The challenge will be educating the public about why all cancers are not created equally."

Men Should Not Rush to Treatment, Docs Say

To this end, some experts strongly urge greater patient education on the pros and cons of screening for prostate cancer.

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