Types of Prostate Exams

Many people think that the only type of prostate exam is an internal example. However, there are several different prostate exams that can be used to paint a clearer picture about what is happening in there. We shall look at some of the various prostate exams in today’s article.

Digital Rectal Exam

The most common type of prostate exam is the digital rectal exam. This exam involves a health care professional inserting a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and manually feeling the prostate for any lumps, bumps, hemorrhoids or any other abnormalities or changes in the area.

It is recommended that after the age of 50 that all men have an annual digital rectal exam. Some men are suggested to start at the age of 40 if they are in a higher risk category for prostate cancer – including African Americans, those with a strong family history of prostate cancer and others who are more susceptible to the disease.

Prostate Exams

Transrectal Ultrasound

A transrectal ultrasound is one of the less common types of prostate exams and is not recommended as a routine test. It does not typically show early signs of prostate cancer and is more commonly used during a prostate biopsy. Transrectal Ultrasounds are not only helpful for detecting prostate cancer however – they can also be used to measure the size of the prostate gland that can help determine what treatment options are available for the patient.

Transresctal ultrasounds use sound waves to create an image of the prostate on a video screen. A small probe is placed inside the rectum. As the sound waves enter the prostate, echoes are created that are picked up by the probe and are then turned into an image of the prostate by the ultrasound machine.

Prostate Exam

Prostate-Specific Antigen Blood Test

Within the prostate gland, a substance called prostate-specific antigen is produced by the cells. In a healthy man they will have levels under 4 nanograms per millimeter of their blood. As the levels of prostate-specific antigen cells go up so does the risk of prostate cancer.

However, just because the levels are below 4 does not mean that prostate cancer isn’t present – it is just a strong indicator. Men who have a PSA level in the borderline range between 4 and 10 have a 1 in 4 chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

It is not only prostate cancer that can cause a rise in PSA. Some other factors that may affect the PSA levels include: ejaculation – this can cause a brief rise in PSA levels; age – PSA levels slowly decrease with age; prostatitis – an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland; and benign prostatic hyperplasia – a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate that is normal as men get older.

A prostate-specific antigen blood test is an essential type of prostate exam – however it works best in conjunction with a digital rectal exam. Not only is a PSA blood test a good way of detecting prostate cancer in the early stages – it is also used to give the doctor information regarding prostate cancer after you have been diagnosed. It can help tell them if further tests are required after a biopsy, and whether or not the cancer is confined to your prostate. After treatment is completed a PSA blood test can be used to test PSA levels to determine if the treatment was successful.

Prostate Blood Test

What is the purpose of different types of Prostate Exams?

No single prostate exam can give a definite diagnosis of diseases related to the prostate. Most doctors recommend having at least a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen blood test done when having your annual prostate exam. Many cancers are missed during a digital rectal exam, but can be picked up in a PSA blood test. Cancers found during a digital rectal exam are usually quite developed – with doctors often missing early stages of prostate cancer.

Prostate exams are not mean to be enjoyable –however their benefits strongly outweigh their disadvantages. Early detection of prostate cancer is essential to survival rates. If caught early, prostate cancer has an almost 100 percent survival rate.


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