Get Informed to Reduce Your Risk
Estimates state that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and that more than 2.5 million men in America have this condition now. Prostate Cancer Awareness Month presents us with the unique opportunity to shed more light on this disease, which is a leading cause of death for men around the world. Here, we discuss what prostate cancer is and what screening can tell you and your doctor.
Cancer in any organ develops when cells begin to grow abnormally. Prostate cancer affects the small organ that sits beneath the bladder, in front of the rectum. The prostate gland is where semen is produced. It is only about as large as a walnut, but it fills a vital role in a man’s health and wellness. The development of prostate cancer is not easily detected; there are no apparent signs. This is why screening guidelines have been established for men of a certain age and also for men with particular risk factors, such as a family history of this kind of cancer.
What does screening involve?
There are two aspects of prostate cancer screening. A digital rectal exam is one of the first tests a doctor will conduct. The manual palpation of the prostate gland through the rectum observes the texture, size, and shape of this organ. If you’ve never had a digital rectal exam, this may sound unpleasant. Rest assured, it is not painful, and it takes only a couple of minutes, if that. In addition to this screening, doctors also order lab work to measure the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. Generally, elevated PSA is observed as an indicator of abnormal cells in the prostate.
If PSA is High
Lab work indicating a high PSA can be alarming. It is important for men to know that an elevated PSA does not necessarily confirm prostate cancer. What a high number tells us is that we need to either monitor levels closely or perform further testing.
Standard tests used to diagnose prostate cancer include ultrasound, which displays a detailed image of the prostate gland and any abnormalities in size or shape. A biopsy is a tissue sample that is tested for the presence of cancer cells.
If you are age 50 or older or have risk factors for prostate cancer, schedule a screening with your primary care doctor.