Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death among men, and much of that is sadly due to men being too embarrassed to go to their doctor for a checkup. The average male with an average risk of prostate cancer should start screening at age 50, but in some cases this should be as early as 40 years old. If you have a history of prostate cancer in your family, then you should talk to your doctor about what age you should begin screening at. Early detection offers the best chance of a cure, so it’s important to overcome the concerns and embarrassment of visiting your doctor about this. Read on for more information on how to check for prostate cancer.
Cancer screening tests such as the PSA test (prostate-specific antigen test), can help identify cancer in the early stages of development. The PSA test checks the PSA protein in the blood via a blood test. The blood is screened to identify whether the patient has unusual PSA readings which could suggest prostate disease. The higher the level of PSA protein in the blood is normally an indicator of cancer being present. The PSA test is conducted alongside a digital rectal examination. This is the part that puts most men off from visiting their doctor, but it is a necessary and important stage of screening. Your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum in order to feel your prostate gland and check for abnormal signs, such as lumps.
If during a digital rectal exam your doctor has noticed a lump or hardening of the prostate, you may be given a needle biopsy. This biopsy will provide a sample of cells which can be examined under the microscope. A needle biopsy is easily carried out in the outpatient department of the hospital and will require you to take a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. If your results prove negative, but your doctor wishes to check further in case cancer was missed, they may request you to undergo a template biopsy. A template biopsy is done under local or general anesthetic. Several samples will then be taken from particular areas of the prostate.
If the samples come back with evidence that there may be cancer, further tests will take place. This may take the form of a bone scan, but is more likely to be carried out via MRI and CT scan or abdominal ultrasound.
Results and Treatment
Once the test results come back, which may take as long as one week, your doctor will be able to advice you how you should best proceed. Depending on the cancer and the stage it is at you may be advice to have surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment at a cancer center. There are a variety of approaches when dealing with prostate cancer which can only be discussed and advised when the results have come in. Be aware that with news that cancer is present it will likely be difficult to deal, and make sure that you have a good support network around you and access to counseling services. Your doctor or cancer treatment center can usually refer you to a counselor.