Imaging technologies support doctors and patients with relevant diagnostic tools. In the field of Urology, doctors rely on modalities such as ultrasound in prostate screenings and other treatment protocols. Here, we discuss what a prostate ultrasound is, why it may be needed, and what patients can expect during their screening.
Diagnostic ultrasound is a comfortable, safe test that obtains a detailed view of the inside of the body. Ultrasound is high-frequency sound waves that transfer through superficial tissue and bounce off of internal structures, such as the prostate gland. The transducer that is placed against the body delivers the collection of sound waves to a computer system that turns the waves into an image. There is no ionizing radiation in ultrasound examinations, so no exposure to radiation. An additional benefit to ultrasound imaging is that the real-time observation of the body captures the prostate, surrounding tissue, and even blood vessels and urinary structures.
Because of the location of the prostate gland, beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum, a prostate ultrasound is performed transrectally. The ultrasound probe is small, covered, and lubricated to support a comfortable procedure.
Reasons for a Prostate Ultrasound Exam
Suspected prostate cancer is not the only reason a man may need a prostate ultrasound. This test can:
- Detect various abnormalities within the prostate, including growths.
- Observe the degree of prostate enlargement (BPH) with exact measurements.
- Observe reproductive organs to assess the cause of male infertility.
Doctors often order ultrasound exams to further assess symptoms such as elevated PSA (prostate-specific antigen), urinary difficulty, and nodules felt during a routine digital rectal exam.
What Patients Should know about Prostate Ultrasound
Understandably, the thought of a transrectal ultrasound exam can sound highly unpleasant. However, men who undergo this screening report sensations that are not much different than a standard digital rectal exam. The size of the transducer is quite small, and the generous use of lubrication assists with comfort. If no prostate biopsy is needed, the ultrasound exam may be over and done within 20 minutes.