Limitations of prostate cancer tests

If a man requests prostate cancer testing after being fully counselled on the benefits and risks, perform both PSA and DRE.

  • The PSA test measures PSA protein in the blood but there are many questions about the value of this test for prostate cancer as there are numerous limitations.
  • A DRE (digital rectal examination) has limitations because many GPs lack the practice required to be efficient practitioners of this test, and the anatomy of the prostate gland (or the individual) limits the information that can be gleaned from it.

Video: expert commentary on PSA tests

In these educational videos, Dr Justin Coleman talks to leading academics in overdiagnosis about some of the major issues around inappropriate testing, diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.

Key messages

  • Recommendations are changing
  • Tests are not harmless
  • Discuss the risks and benefits with your patients
  • The test has different value in different contexts

Who should have a PSA test?

Recommendations are changing

Tests are not harmless

Explain the rests and benefits

Different context, different value

What you can do