Prostate Examination for Early Detection

Author: Brian Hildebrandt, Last Updated: March 1, 2017

A prostate examination is an important part of a routine physical for men in the early detection of prostate diseases. When prostate cancer is discovered early, treatment is more likely to be successful.

For that reason, the American Cancer Society advises men age 50 and older to undergo yearly examinations. Men in high risk groups are advised to begin yearly prostate examinations by age 45, or sooner if recommended by a physician.

A routine digital exam may be able to pick up early signs of prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

BPH, Prostatitis, Impotence and Incontinence

BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate that has symptoms similar to prostate cancer. Other medical conditions that require a prostate exam include prostatitis, impotence, and urinary incontinence.

A prostate examination is a quick and easy procedure completed in your doctor’s office. It may also be incorporated into a yearly physical check-up.

How a Prostate Examination is Performed

No special preparation is required. The doctor asks the patient to bend over and inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum.

While doing so, he feels for any abnormalities in the prostate. The test is not painful, although it may be uncomfortable, and is over in about 10 minutes.

A prostate exam differs from a digital rectal examination for rectal cancer in that the patient is positioned on his side when checking for rectal cancer and asked to bend over when checking the prostate.

To perform a digital examination, the doctor uses his finger to palpate the prostate gland itself. He does this to determine if the prostate gland is enlarged and to feel for the presence of nodules or lumps.

If an abnormality is suspected, the doctor will order follow-up testing to more closely examine the prostate.

Ultrasound, CT Scan, MRI and Biopsy

More in-depth examination may be done through the use of an ultrasound test, CAT scan, MRI, or biopsy. Since the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer and BPH are so similar, a biopsy is necessary for a definitive diagnosis of cancer.

PSA testing is commonly completed as part of a yearly physical. This is a blood test indicating your probability of having prostate cancer, however since many other factors can influence your results; it’s accuracy as a diagnostic tool may be unpredictable.

Early Detection is Key

Even though a digital examination cannot test the entire prostate gland, it’s estimated nearly one-third of all cases of prostate cancer may be detected by a routine examination. Nearly 190,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in the US.

Prostate Cancer Survival Rates

When detected early, the 5 year prostate cancer survival rate is 99 percent!

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Undergoing yearly prostate examinations may help alleviate some of the stress and worry over contracting prostate cancer.

Benign prostatic hypertrophy is much more common. It is estimated over half of the men in their 60’s have symptoms of BPH that mimic prostate cancer.

It’s even possible to have BPH and cancer together. Therefore, proper diagnosis followed by prompt treatment is important to maintaining good health especially during your senior years.


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