Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
Detection and Diagnosis
Your doctor can check for prostate cancer before you have any symptoms. During an office visit, your doctor will ask about your personal and family medical history. You'll have a physical exam. You may also have one or both of the following tests:
A very inexpensive and easily performed early warning test is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which is a blood test. This test alone will not determine if you have prostate cancer as the PSA test may be affected by a number of factors. Another way to detect the presence of a prostate problem, benign or malignant, is through a digital rectal exam. It is recommended that these two tests be performed every year after age 50. When men are screened annually with these tests, prostate cancer is caught early and the possibility of a cure is greatest.
For a more accurate view of the prostate, a transrectal ultrasound will be performed. The doctor inserts a probe into the rectum to check your prostate for abnormal areas. The probe sends out sound waves that people cannot hear (ultrasound). The waves bounce off the prostate. A computer uses these sound waves/echoes to create a picture called a sonogram.
If prostate cancer is suspected, your doctor will order a transrectal biopsy: It's the only sure way to diagnose prostate cancer. A biopsy is the removal of tissue to look for cancer cells. The doctor inserts needles through the rectum into the prostate. The doctor removes small tissue samples (called cores) from many areas of the prostate. Transrectal ultrasound is usually used to guide the insertion of the needles. A pathologist checks the tissue samples for cancer cells.