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Testing for Prostate Cancer

Most of us understand the variety of tests that we must do as a part of our annual routine to ensure our continued health as we get older. This includes routine examinations that allow us to determine if disease may be present before we begin to present with symptoms. This type of early screening is essential for finding disease so that we may treat it quickly and effectively. For men, prostate cancer screening should be an important part of a yearly healthcare routine. The fact is that early screening can dramatically change the outcome of cancer treatment and prostate cancer is no exception. So what does a prostate screening include?

It may sound daunting, but the truth is that screening for prostate cancer is relatively easy and can be done during a routine physical. Most often, doctors perform a digital rectal exam right in the office during which they are able to examine the prostate for any changes or signs of disease. Some signs of abnormality during a digital rectal exam include evidence of lumpy or hard areas in the prostate.

Other prostate cancer screenings include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test during which the levels of a PSA are evaluated. Sometimes, high PSA levels can be evidence of a tumor which is why the PSA is referred to as a tumor marker. In the majority of the cases, however, an elevated PSA does not correlate to the existence of cancer but it can alert your doctor to continue with further testing.

Your doctor may also choose to pursue a biopsy which calls for the removal of tissue samples for testing. The tissues are removed surgically under anesthesia, after which they are examined under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.

Prostate cancer can often be asymptomatic causing the disease to be found during much later stages when treatment can be less effective. Including prostate screenings as a part of your yearly medical care can allow you to protect yourself from what could otherwise be a silent disease.