Prostate Cancer: Essential Screening and Testing for Men
Part of the Prostate Cancer For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Prostate cancer is often curable, if the disease is diagnosed and treated early (before the cancer spreads). The following diagnostic tests should be done with your annual physical exam starting at age 50, or earlier if you have a history of prostate cancer in your family.
Digital rectal examination (or DRE): The doctor inserts his lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for lumps on the prostate, which is normally smooth. Nobody likes this test, but it can be a life saver.
Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: This blood test shows if you have elevated levels of PSA, which may indicate cancer is present.
If your digital rectal exam, PSA, or other indicators (such as urinary symptoms) point to the possibility of prostate cancer, you’ll see a urologist, who will order some or all of the following tests. Use this list to keep straight the name and purpose of each test:
A biopsy: The doctor will remove tissue samples from your prostate to be checked for cancer. You can’t know if you have cancer until a biopsy is done.
An ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to check for the presence of tumors. The doctor may use an external ultrasound in addition to the internal ultrasound (transrectal probe) used as part of the biopsy.
A bone scan: Some doctors also perform a bone scan in addition to a biopsy, to check whether cancer may have spread to the bones.