A prostate exam is a type of cancer screening test that involves checking the prostate gland for any obvious abnormalities, such as changes to shape, size, or texture. The exam also includes a blood test to check if PSA levels are normal, which can help diagnose cancer.
Use this comprehensive guide to help you learn more about what to expect at your prostate exam.
What To Expect At A Prostate Exam
At a prostate exam, your doctor will first let you know what to expect in your exam. They will also evaluate your medical history, including any medications you are taking, and discuss any concerns you may have about your prostate and urinary health.
Little preparation is required for a prostate exam, but you should abstain from sex and ejaculation for 48 hours beforehand, as this can sometimes temporarily affect PSA results. Also, you should let your provider know if you have any existing conditions that may cause discomfort during your exam, such as hemorrhoids, anal tears, or fissures.
Physical Exam (Digital Rectal Exam)
A digital rectal exam (DRE) involves your doctor feeling the surface of the prostate gland, via the rectum, to check for any abnormalities. For the examination, you will be asked to remove clothing from below the waist.
You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees brought up towards your chest. Your doctor will then carefully insert a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum, where it is possible to feel the surface of the prostate gland. The test usually takes less than a few minutes, and although it may cause some slight discomfort, there shouldn’t be any pain associated with the examination. If you experience pain, you should let your doctor know straight away. During the examination, your doctor will be checking for any obvious abnormalities of the prostate gland, such as the texture, size, and shape of the prostate.
Once the examination is completed, your doctor will discuss the results of your exam with you. A DRE alone cannot diagnose prostate cancer, because not all of the gland can be felt during the exam and in some cases, the prostate gland may feel normal even if it contains cancer cells.If there are any concerns, your doctor may refer you for further tests, such as an MRI scan, biopsy, CT scan, or bone scan.
PSA Blood Test
A PSA blood test is where your provider takes a small sample of blood, which is then analyzed in a laboratory. The blood test measures the amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood, which can help diagnose prostate cancer. PSA is a protein that is produced by both normal and cancerous prostate cells, and a high level of PSA in the blood can sometimes be a sign of cancer. However, this is not always the case. PSA readings can vary with age and from man to man. Some men may have raised PSA levels for other reasons, such as due to other prostate conditions or a urine infection. If the results show elevated levels of PSA in the blood, further tests maybe recommended, such as an MRI and biopsy.
Who Should Have a Prostate Exam?
The American Cancer Society recommends that men have their first prostate exam by the age of 50, but men who are at increased risk of prostate cancer should consider starting prostate exams at the age of 45.
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing prostate cancer, including:
- Being age 50 or over (the risk of prostate cancer increases with age).
- Having a family history of the disease, especially if it is a close relative, such as a father, son, or brother.
- Being African American, which puts you at greater risk of developing it at an earlier age and for developing a more severe type of prostate cancer than other men.
A prostate exam can help detect the early signs of prostate cancer, when treatment is often most effective. In addition to regular prostate exams, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible if you develop urinary symptoms, such as difficulty starting urination or emptying the bladder, a weak or interrupted flow of urine, pain or burning during urination or ejaculation, blood in the urine or semen, or urinating more frequently.
Prostate Exam in Phoenix, AZ
If you are age 50 or over or have risk factors for prostate cancer, book your annual prostate exam with the compassionate, highly skilled provider at Ironwood Urology. Our board-certified urologist, Dr. Desi Avila, provides annual prostate exams to detect any prostate problems quickly,increasing your chances of successful treatment. We also offer a range of other men’s health services, including vasectomy, Low T treatments, male infertility, and treatment for erectile dysfunction.
To learn more or to book a consultation, call us today at (480) 961-2323, or request an appointment online.