Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of prostate exams and how they relate to early cancer screening. In this guide we shall look in more detail at how prostate exams are used for cancer screening.
What is a Prostate Exam?
There are several types of prostate exams; however the two most common types are the digital rectal exam (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
The DRE is performed at a doctor’s surgery and involves the doctor or healthcare professional inserting a lubricated and gloved finger into the anus to feel the prostate cancer for any abnormalities or changes in the area.
A PSA blood test is used to test for levels of prostate-specific antigen cells within the blood that can indicate that something is not quite right.
There are several purposes of prostate exams, however the most common is to screen for cancer – which we shall look at in more detail below.
How can Prostate Exams be used to Screen for Cancer?
One of the main purposes of prostate exams is to screen for cancer. Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men after lung cancer. Therefore it is essential that men are regularly screened for the disease.
During a digital rectal examination the health care professional uses their finger to feel for any abnormalities that may signal that cancer could be present. While a DRE cannot specifically diagnose prostate cancer, it can prompt the physician to request further testing to find out if there are any underlying causes for the abnormalities.
A prostate-specific antigen blood test is even more accurate at screening for cancer – and is the best way of diagnosing early stages of cancer that some other tests may miss. When testing PSA levels in the blood, healthy men generally have a PSA level less than 4. If they have a level between 4 and 10 then there is a 1 in 4 chance that they have prostate cancer. If the levels are above 10 then there is more than a 50 percent chance that prostate cancer is present.
Once both of these tests have been done – any abnormalities will require further testing to determine if cancer is indeed present in the patient.
Since the early 1990’s, many more men are having regular prostate exams and the number of prostate cancer related deaths have dropped significantly. By having an annual prostate exam chances are any abnormalities that are found will have been found in their early stages – making treatment very easy and there is almost a 100 percent success rate.
Who needs a Prostate Exam?
Every male over the age of 40 should be considering prostate exams. Those who are in a high risk category – such as those who have a long family history of prostate cancer – should begin annual testing at age 40.
Those who are not at high risk of prostate cancer are usually recommended to begin annual testing at the age of 50.
Your physician can advise you as to when to begin using prostate exams to screen for cancer.
What are the risks of developing Prostate Cancer?
Unfortunately the risk of developing prostate cancer is very high. Approximately 1 in 6 men will develop prostate cancer at some stage in their lives, however with regular prostate exams and cancer screening the survival rates is very high.
The risk of developing prostate cancer increases exponentially after the age of 50, and by the age of 80 there is an 83 percent probability that you will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
In fact, some doctors have suggested that all men would eventually get prostate cancer if they didn’t die of a different cause beforehand.
Below the age of 35 prostate cancers are incredibly rare – so much so that there are very few statistics available.
Some people are at a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer than others. Some of the factors affecting prostate cancer are controllable while others are not.
For example, obesity, alcohol consumption and poor diet are all contributing factors to prostate cancer risk – all of which are controllable and can decrease your risk of developing prostate cancer.
Uncontrollable risk factors include heredity, race, family history and medical history.