How to check
We do not recommend checking for prostate cancer at home because it carries risks such as underdiagnosis and injury to your rectum. A doctor is the only person who is highly skilled to see if you have prostate cancer. With their experience, only they know how a normal prostate feels and if growth on the prostate can be cancerous. Accordingly, they can order additional tests and provide you the most appropriate guidance. They will perform an examination known as digital rectal examination (DRE) and order a blood test known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. These are also known as screening tests for cancer. Some laboratories provide at-home testing kits for checking PSA levels. Before trying for one, discuss with your doctor.
Digital rectal examination (DRE):
This is a simple examination performed by doctors in their offices. Doctors will
- Put on gloves.
- Lubricate their fingers.
- Insert one finger gently into your anus till it reaches the rectum.
- Feel the prostate and growths over it, if any.
A hard growth is suggestive of prostate cancer.
You do not require any special preparation before DRE, and you can go home on the same day. The procedure is usually painless but can cause mild discomfort. If you have fissures or piles, you may observe mild spotting/bleeding after you go home. Contact your doctor if bleeding persists or if it is significant.
Immediately after the procedure, your doctor will let you know if your prostate is normal or if there is some abnormality. If they find anything suspicious, they may order further tests such as an ultrasound and blood tests, specifically a PSA test.
PSA is a type of tumor marker that is normally present in your blood. Normal levels of PSA are defined as 4 ng/mL. If you have prostate cancer, PSA levels can become higher than 4 ng/mL. A person with PSA levels higher than 10 ng/mL is at least 50 percent more likely to have prostate cancer. However, having elevated levels of PSA does not necessarily mean that you have prostate cancer. They can also be found
- If you are old.
- If you have ejaculated recently.
- If you are taking testosterone supplements.
- If you have other problems of the prostate such as
- Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Prostatitis (Inflammation and swelling of the prostate)
- If you are on certain medications such as
- Statins (medications for reducing blood cholesterol level)
- Thiazide diuretics (a type of water pills)
- After you have undergone medical procedures such as DRE or a biopsy
Diagnosing prostate cancer:
If the above prostate cancer screening tests detect an abnormality, your doctor may recommend additional tests to confirm if you have prostate cancer. These include
- Ultrasound: To check your prostate, the doctor may use a transrectal ultrasound. It involves inserting a probe into your rectum. The probe uses sound waves to capture images of your prostate and displays them on a screen in the form of moving images. These moving images are printed on a film, whose findings will be mentioned on the ultrasound report.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI scan of the prostate uses strong magnetic waves projected on your abdomen. These magnetic waves provide a detailed view of the prostate. The test can also help the doctor plan how to take samples of the prostate tissue for further examination.
- Biopsy: A biopsy of the prostate involves removing a sample of your prostate and sending it to the laboratory to examine it under a microscope. This test provides a definitive diagnosis of prostate cancer.