Prostate cancer is a type of malignant tumor that generally affects men as they age. It occurs when cancerous cells start to grow in the prostate gland, which is located under the bladder and near the rectum. The gland is responsible for the production of a fluid that joins sperm and is expelled during ejaculation, forming semen. Early diagnosis of the disease may be difficult since in early stages of prostate cancer, the symptoms are not always noticeable.
However, as the disease progresses, patients start to experience symptoms like urination problems, pain while urinating or ejaculating, erectile dysfunction, and weakness or numbness in the limbs. Given the high incidence of prostate diseases, physicians often perform regular examinations to assess the health of the gland. Therefore, there are many methods that can help diagnose prostate cancer.
Medical History and Physical Exam to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
Clinicians who suspect a man has prostate cancer will ask about symptoms he may be experiencing, including urinary or sexual problems. Some men also feel pain in their bones, which could indicate the cancer has metastasized to the bones, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Physicians will also performs a digital rectal exam (DRE), the most commonly used method. During the DRE, the physician inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for bumps or hard areas on the prostate. Other parts of the body may also be examined, while physicians often request other tests.
PSA Blood Test for Diagnosis
The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a type of blood test requested to detect the presence of prostate cancer. It is particularly effective as a method of early detection in patients without symptoms. While healthy men have a PSA level lower than four nanograms per milliliter of blood, the higher the PSA level, the higher the probability of suffering from prostate cancer.
“When prostate cancer develops, the PSA level usually goes above 4. Still, a level below 4 does not guarantee that a man doesn’t have cancer – about 15 percent of men with a PSA below 4 will have prostate cancer on a biopsy. Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer. If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is over 50 percent,” the ACS says on its website.
Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS) to Diagnose Prostate Cancer
A transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) is a test that consists of inserting a small probe into the rectum. The probe emits sound waves that create echoes. With the echoes and sounds, a computer program is able to create a black and white image of the prostate, which is used to analyze the presence of tumors. The procedure is performed in a physician’s office and takes no longer than 10 minutes. It is often recommended in patients with a high PSA level or who had an abnormal DRE result. The TRUS also helps measure the size of the prostate gland, which can help determine the PSA density.
Diagnosis Through Biopsy
A prostate biopsy is also used to diagnose prostate cancer. Using a core needle, a body tissue sample is collected and analyzed under the microscope to seek cancer cells.
“A core needle biopsy is the main method used to diagnose prostate cancer. It is usually done by a urologist, a surgeon who treats cancers of the genital and urinary tract, which includes the prostate gland. Using transrectal ultrasound to ‘see’ the prostate gland, the doctor quickly inserts a thin, hollow needle through the wall of the rectum into the prostate. When the needle is pulled out it removes a small cylinder (core) of prostate tissue. This is repeated from 8 to 18 times, but most urologists will take about 12 samples,” says the ACS.
Note: Prostate Cancer News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.