One of six men eventually gets a prostate cancer diagnosis. And even though most men have a slow-growing type, prostate cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths in men older than 75. So if you’re afraid of a prostate exam, it’s time get over it and protect your prostate health.
Your doctor will probably start by asking you if you have any prostate health symptoms like a weak urine stream, dribbling, straining to urinate, or blood in your sperm or urine. Your doctor may also ask if you have a father or a brother with prostate cancer – and if the doctor doesn’t ask, volunteer the information.
No man likes to talk about the details, but there are two tests that will be done…
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
This exam involves having a lubricated, gloved finger inserted into your rectum. You may have to bend over or lie on your side. It may hurt your dignity a little, but it’s not painful. Your prostate is right there where your doctor can feel for any abnormalities, so this is a really important exam for all men.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test
PSA is a protein that goes up with prostate cancer. However, you can have a high PSA without prostate cancer, and you can have prostate cancer without a high PSA. This is not a perfect screening tool but helps your doctor if further testing is needed.
Because the symptoms of prostate cancer often do not appear until the cancer is well advanced and deadly, it is crucial for men to be screened for the disease beginning at age 50, often younger depending on your risk factors. If detected early, the cancer is treatable.
Learn more about prostate cancer, its signs and symptoms, and treatment by visiting Prisma Health Cancer Institute.
How your doctor handles your condition depends on the details of your case; your age, how much trouble it’s causing, and more. Treatments may include:
Watchful waiting. If you have an enlarged prostate but are not bothered by symptoms, you may be advised merely to get an annual checkup, which might include a variety of tests.
Lifestyle changes. This includes cutting back on how much you drink at night and before bedtime, especially drinks with alcohol or caffeine.
Medicine. Common treatments for BPH are alpha-blockers, which ease BPH symptoms, and what’s called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or 5-ARIs, which help shrink the prostate. Many men may take them together.
Surgery. Men with severe symptoms who haven’t been helped by other treatments might have to turn to surgery. Talk to your doctor about possible risks and outcomes.