Prostate cancer screening can identify signs of cancer early – before any symptoms appear. In most cases, it is recommended by the age of 50, although men with a high risk of prostate cancer should undergo screenings earlier.
There are various types of prostate screening methods.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
The initial screening test for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. It measures the amount of a protein produced by the prostate and present in the blood.
Generally, the higher the PSA level, the greater the chance that cancer is present. This is especially true for PSA levels that continue to increase over time.
In years past, a “normal” PSA level was considered to be 4 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter of blood). But many factors can temporarily increase or decrease a man’s PSA levels, including urinary tract infections and drugs that treat an enlarged prostate. A PSA level above 4 does not necessarily mean prostate cancer is present. Likewise, a PSA level below 4 is no guarantee you do not have prostate cancer. Thus, your doctor will take many variables into account in addition to PSA levels such as your age and any family history of the disease.
PSA blood tests are typically performed in conjunction with a digital rectal exam.
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
In a digital rectal exam, your doctor will check your prostate by inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to check for any size, shape or texture abnormalities of the prostate gland.
Your doctor may recommend a biopsy if anything is amiss. This exam is usually done in combination with a PSA blood test for a more accurate diagnosis, especially in the case of early stage prostate cancer.
More Diagnostic Tests for Prostate Cancer:
Your doctor may recommend further testing if high PSA levels and/or an abnormality after a rectal exam are present. These tests may include:
- Ultrasound. Using a minimally invasive, image-guided transrectal ultrasound inserted into your rectum, your doctor will be able to examine your prostate up close. It is an image-guided examination tool that allows your doctor to take pictures of your prostate gland using sound waves.
- Prostate biopsy. A needle biopsy may be recommended if initial examination results (such as a digital rectal exam or PSA blood test) suggest prostate cancer. A biopsy is taken by inserting a thin needle into the prostate. Tissue samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis. The vast majority of men who undergo a prostate biopsy will have negative results (no prostate cancer); just 15% will test positive for prostate cancer.
- MRI. This imaging test is increasingly being used in prostate cancer staging, usually after a prostate biopsy. So, if biopsy results indicate prostate cancer, an MRI is usually recommended to identify how much cancer there is and whether it has spread.
Board-Certified, Fellowship-Trained Urologist in Phoenix
Dr. Desiderio (Desi) Avila Jr. at Ironwood Urology is the only fellowship-trained men’s fertility specialist in Phoenix, Arizona, and he is committed to the complete evaluation and treatment of men’s health conditions, focusing on all aspects of men’s health, including prostate health.
If you have any concerns about your prostate, please contact Dr. Avila at (480) 961-2323 or request an appointment now.