If you are a black man in your 40s and/or have had other family members who contracted prostate cancer, you are considered in the higher risk category for the disease and a screening is necessary.
This is especially true because prostate cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Prostate cancer is a pernicious disease. It grows slowly and may not show symptoms. You can totally feel healthy and still have it present in your prostate.
It’s good to know whether you have it, so here are the two most common types of prostate screenings healthcare providers offer:
Most Common Screenings
The digital rectal examination (DRE) and prostate specific antigen (PSA) test are most used to determine whether cancer is present in the prostate.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
A DRE is when your health care provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum and checks the rectum, anus, and prostate for anything abnormal.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
The PSA test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by cancerous and noncancerous tissue in the prostate.
The Negatives of Screenings
Prostate cancer grows slowly and generally doesn’t produce health problems. However, if a DRE or a PSA detects the disease, it can produce feelings of worry and anxiety. A test result could also lead to you to take unneeded tests and/or seek treatments that can have serious side effects, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Think radiation therapy or the total removal of the prostate – common treatments that can cause bowel problems, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.
It is also possible for a PSA test to yield a false positive, an incorrect reading where the disease is actually not present – leading to more unnecessary tests and/or treatment.
Why Screenings Are Beneficial
That old adage about knowledge is power applies here. With a prostate screening you can know whether cancer is present. This knowledge can empower you to take the necessary steps to seek treatment before the cancer spreads, which can lower your chances of dying from it.
Talk to Your Doctor
As always, you should consult with your doctor to help you determine the best treatment option based on your health history and personal risk factors.
Other Common Screenings
Physical exam and health history
A physical exam determines the health of the body, and includes checking for signs of prostate cancer like lumps and/or anything that appears unusual. A physical exam considers a patient’s health history, including past illnesses and treatments.
This occurs when a probe about the size of a finger is inserted into your rectum to check the prostate. This probe bounces high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off your internal tissues or organs and makes echoes. These echoes form a sonogram, which is a picture of your body tissues.
Transrectal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
This procedure uses a strong magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. A probe is inserted into the rectum near the prostate in order to give off radio waves. This procedure allows the MRI machine to compose clearer pictures of the prostate and nearby tissue to detect whether the cancer has spread outside the prostate to nearby areas.