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Diagnostic Tests for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is a potentially deadly disease in which the cells located in the tissues of the prostate become cancerous or otherwise malignant. What you may not know is that the prostate is a very important gland that is a part of the male reproductive system. The prostate resides just below the bladder and in front of the rectum (the last part of the intestine). When the prostate is healthy, it is actually only the size of a walnut and it is wrapped around the urethra (this is the tube through which the urine in the bladder is emptied). Also, the prostate creates the fluid which is used to produce male semen.

Through ongoing clinical trials, medical researchers are working to produce ever better methods of treating prostate cancer. While there have certainly been some promising breakthroughs, there is still much work that needs to be done.

Two Primary Diagnostic Tests for Prostate Cancer

At this time, there are two primary diagnostic tests which are used when looking for prostate cancer that has produced no visible symptoms:

  • The first of these tests is something called the digital rectal exam, where a doctor manually examines the prostate by inserting a gloved finger in through the rectum. During this exam, they will be feeling for any hard or lumpy areas (these nodules could be an indication of prostate cancer).
  • The other diagnostic test for prostate cancer is a blood test which looks for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance that is produced by the cancer. When these tests are used in combination, they can pick up on certain changes that would suggest the presence of prostate cancer.

Unfortunately, our research efforts have only come so far, and neither of these diagnostic tests are completely perfect. For instance, there are a lot of men who actually have a slightly elevated level of PSA, but they don’t have prostate cancer. Additionally, men who have prostate cancer may possess normal levels of this substance. Also, doctors cannot always detect the presence of prostate cancer via the digital rectal exam.

Diagnosis Confirmed with Microscope

A diagnosis of prostate cancer can only be confirmed after the cells of the prostate are examined under a microscope. So, this requires a trip to the urologist for a biopsy in order to get cells directly from the prostate. Only a tiny tissue sample is needed to be examined and tested.

Know Your Family Medical History

Your doctor will need some information on your family medical history, and they may ask you a few questions about it. You may want to check and see if anyone from your family has been afflicted with genital or urinary disease prior to this visit, as it can be quite important for your diagnosis. You should also take note of any changes in your urinary habits, since this may be an indication of prostate disease.