Prostate screening usually starts for men aged 50 and over; if you have a family history of prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend that you start having the tests done at age 40 or 45. Under the supervision of a medical specialist, prostate tests can detect a number of conditions at the early stages – which is when treatment is more likely to be successful.
Given the importance of prostate exams for men’s health, it pays to understand why they’re necessary. Here are five key points about a prostate exam, and we’ll explain where you can go to ensure your optimum health and wellness:
1. Purpose of Prostate Tests
Prostate screening helps to detect prostate conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate), prostatitis, and prostate cancer. All three conditions can cause changes in the texture and firmness of the prostate gland.
Localized areas of tenderness can form, as well as noticeable nodules and lumps. A digital rectal exam (DRE) can allow a doctor to feel these abnormalities. Blood tests can indicate that prostate cancer may be present, and ultrasound scans can be used to check for any issues in and around the prostate. If necessary, a biopsy is typically performed to enable a definitive diagnosis.
2. PSA Test
Starting at age 40 or older (depending on your personal medical history and your family’s medical history), a man will be asked by his doctor to have a blood test which checks the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Every man’s PSA numbers are different from those of other men, so the point is to check whether your PSA level is increasing or if it’s stable.
Your doctor will check your PSA every year or every time you have your regular checkup. If the PSA number is rising as compared to past levels, you may be asked to have further tests. An increasing PSA can indicate prostate cancer, although sometimes it doesn’t mean anything at all.
If it does indicate prostate cancer, keep in mind that early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer is almost 100% curable.
3. Digital Rectal Exam
This test is a basic procedure that only takes a minute or two. During a DRE, your doctor will use a gloved finger to check the prostate gland through your rectum. They will sweep their finger across the prostate to detect any lumps, soft spots, or other unusual features. If your doctor detects any areas of concern, they will discuss further testing options with you.
4. Prostate Ultrasound
This procedure involves inserting a probe, which is called a transducer, into your rectum. This transducer emits ultrasonic sound waves that bounce off the prostate and other organs. No radiation is involved.
The ultrasound machine uses the reflected sound waves to construct an image of your prostate. This test can also be used to assess blood flow using a Doppler probe, so your doctor can detect any blockages which may be affecting your prostate and surrounding organs.
5. Prostate Biopsy
Your urologist may recommend a biopsy based on the results of other screening procedures. If earlier results indicate the possibility of prostate cancer, you will need to have a biopsy so that the doctor can confirm the diagnosis. Once the biopsy results are back at the doctor’s office, you and the physician can discuss treatment if necessary.
Prostate Exam in Phoenix, AZ
Located in Phoenix and Gilbert, Arizona, Ironwood Urology specializes in conditions impacting men’s health. Our medical staff, led by Dr. Desi Avila, emphasizes complete evaluation and treatment of many men’s health conditions, including prostate cancer, BPH, erectile dysfunction (ED), and Peyronie’s disease.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Avila, contact our friendly staff today by calling us at (480) 961-2323 or by filling out our online appointment request form. We look forward to serving you!