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Prostate Cancer - Exams and Tests

Tests if you have symptoms

If you are having problems urinating, your doctor may use tests to see if you have an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia). This condition is the most common cause of urination problems.

Tests include:

  • A digital rectal exam, in which the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel your prostate gland. Some prostate tumors can be found this way.
  • A PSA test to measure the levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. A higher level of PSA may be a sign of an enlargement, infection, or cancer of the prostate. If it's possible that an infection is raising your PSA, you may first have 4 to 6 weeks of antibiotics. Your doctor may suggest a second PSA test before thinking about doing a biopsy.
  • A transrectal ultrasound, in which the doctor inserts a probe into your rectum to check your prostate. The probe uses sound waves (ultrasound) to create a picture of the prostate.

If tests point to prostate cancer, your doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy, in which tissue is taken from the prostate and examined under a microscope. A biopsy is the only way to confirm whether you have prostate cancer.

Tests after diagnosis

After prostate cancer has been diagnosed, tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. Tests include:

Tests after treatment

After treatment for prostate cancer, you have regular checkups to check for any signs that the cancer has come back or spread. Tests include:

  • Blood tests. Different types of blood tests are used to see whether cancer has spread to your bones or liver.
  • A bone scan to check for bone damage caused by the cancer spreading.
  • A CT scan or MRI to look for a new tumor.

Screening tests

Screening for prostate cancer involves checking for signs of the disease when there are no symptoms. It may be done with the digital rectal exam and the PSA test. And while it's important to have regular health checkups, experts disagree on whether PSA testing should be used to routinely screen men for prostate cancer. Testing could lead you to have cancer treatments that you don't need.

So talk with your doctor. Ask about your risk for prostate cancer, and discuss the pros and cons of PSA testing.

dplink.gif Prostate Cancer Screening: Should I Have a PSA Test?
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 12, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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