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Prostate Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Prostate Cancer

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The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): An exam of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall for lumps or abnormal areas.
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    Digital rectal exam (DRE). The doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate to check for anything abnormal.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test: A test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer. PSA levels may also be high in men who have an infection or inflammation of the prostate or BPH (an enlarged, but noncancerous, prostate).
  • Transrectal ultrasound: A procedure in which a probe that is about the size of a finger is inserted into the rectum to check the prostate. The probe is used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram. Transrectal ultrasound may be used during a biopsy procedure.
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    Transrectal ultrasound. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum to check the prostate. The probe bounces sound waves off body tissues to make echoes that form a sonogram (computer picture) of the prostate.
  • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope by a pathologist. The pathologist will check the tissue sample to see if there are cancer cells and find out the Gleason score. The Gleason score ranges from 2-10 and describes how likely it is that a tumor will spread. The lower the number, the less likely the tumor is to spread.

    There are two types of biopsy procedures used to diagnose prostate cancer:

    • Transrectal biopsy: The removal of tissue from the prostate by inserting a thin needle through the rectum and into the prostate. This procedure is usually done using transrectal ultrasound to help guide where samples of tissue are taken from. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
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      Transrectal biopsy. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the rectum to show where the tumor is. Then a needle is inserted through the rectum into the prostate to remove tissue from the prostate.
    • Transperineal biopsy: The removal of tissue from the prostate by inserting a thin needle through the skin between the scrotum and rectum and into the prostate. This procedure is usually done using transrectal ultrasound to help guide where samples of tissue are taken from. A pathologist views the tissue under a microscope to look for cancer cells.
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