Since the risk of cancer increases as you age, your doctor might recommend cancer screening as a way to catch cancer before you start having symptoms. Prostate cancer is one of the more common cancers in men, so your doctor might advise prostate cancer screening when you're older. The age you start screening would depend on your level of risk, since having close relatives with this cancer makes your risk higher. These are the two methods of screening for prostate cancer.
The Digital Rectal Exam
The digital rectal exam might be done as part of your annual physical. However, it can also be done specifically to screen for prostate cancer. For this test, the doctor inserts a finger in your rectum to feel the prostate. This lets the doctor know the size of your prostate and to feel for abnormal growths. If something unusual is felt, the doctor might order an MRI to get an image of your prostate to look for a tumor.
A PSA test is a measurement of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) circulating in your blood. This test doesn't confirm the presence of cancer if the results are abnormal, and it doesn't rule out cancer if the results are within normal limits. However, the test results, considered along with the rectal exam and your medical history, could alert your doctor to the need for further testing. Additional testing might include more blood tests to measure the types of PSA in your blood, imaging exams such as an ultrasound or MRI, or a prostate biopsy. Also, if your results are suspicious or if your family has a history of prostate cancer, your doctor might recommend repeating the PSA screening test at a later time to see if the results are the same.
Since the results of a PSA test can be inconclusive and things like medication or supplements can interfere with accurate results, you'll want to discuss PSA testing with your doctor so you understand what the results of your screening could mean. Your doctor will help you decide the right age to start testing and how often you should be screened for prostate cancer.
While these two tests are used for cancer screening, your doctor can order more accurate tests for making the diagnosis of cancer. Get in touch with a provider of prostate cancer screening services today to learn more about your options for this kind of testing.