Did you know that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, right after skin cancer? This terrible condition develops slowly and it is difficult to recognize in its early stages since it has very few symptoms. Nonetheless, as with any cancer, screening tests are the best way to diagnose any anomalies that could indicate there is a bigger problem. However, a prostate exam is not for everyone.
First of All, Let’s Talk about the Prostate
The prostate is a male gland that helps produce semen, which is the fluid that carries sperm. It is located just below the bladder (in front of the rectum).
As you get older, the prostate may enlarge and begin to cause problems, including:
- Infection due to bacteria
- Drip after urinating
- A greater need to go to the bathroom, especially at night
- Enlarged prostate, also known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
- Prostate cancer
When is it a Good Time for a Screening?
A screening test can be very helpful in revealing whether or not you have prostate cancer and what stage it is in. You should, however, be informed on the test’s benefits and risks. The American Cancer Society recommends to not conduct a screening test without first discussing questions with your doctor, as well as the risks and any possible benefits. Specific recommendations when performing this test are:
- Men of 50 years of age with an average risk of prostate cancer.
- Of 45 years of age with a high risk of developing this condition because of a direct relative (previously diagnosed father, brother, or son).
- Men of 40 years of age at higher risk for prostate cancer at an early age.
Talk to your doctor about a prostate exam if you are experiencing symptoms such as painful urination and blood in the urine.
What to Expect during the Study?
This type of test can be done easily and quickly in your doctor’s office. In the first instance, a rectal examination is carried out to rule out anything abnormal, such as lumps and hard or soft areas. The urologist can also feel if the prostate is in a larger than the normal state.
If your doctor feels any abnormalities when performing the rectal exam, he or she will probably recommend a blood test. The blood test will indicate at what level the prostate cancer is, but it can also indicate other conditions, such as BPH or prostate infections. If you show abnormalities in your rectal exam and high levels in the blood test, the specialist may recommend additional tests such as:
- Transrectal ultrasound
- Prostate biopsy
- Magnetic Resonance Scan
Keep in mind that if any of the screening tests have unfavorable results, you should talk to your doctor about the next plan to perform. This will depend on your age, health status, and family history.