What Can I Expect During a Prostate Cancer Screening?

What Can I Expect During a Prostate Cancer Screening?

Just as women are encouraged to get annual mammograms to stay on top of their breast health, making sure to get screened for prostate cancer is something physicians urge their male patients to do. 

You might wonder exactly what the protocol is for such an exam. Knowing what to expect can reduce your anxiety about the assessment. It also provides a chance to have a good conversation with your doctor about your prostate health.

Dr. Russell Bartels and the entire VitalityMDs team provide great care for men, from solutions for sexual dysfunction to routine exams, like prostate cancer screening. We cultivate long-term relationships with our patients and consider ourselves educators as well as providers. 

Why is prostate cancer screening important?

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most prominent cancer in men, with the American Cancer Society predicting that by the time 2021 ends, some 248,530 new prostate cancer cases will be diagnosed, and over 34,100 deaths will be attributed to the disease.

These statistics offer a powerful argument for why prostate cancer screening is critical for men.

Preventive care is essential in your overall care because the earlier our team discovers cancer, the better your chances of survival.

It’s also important to become aware of the risk factors for prostate cancer. They include:

A genetic predisposition for prostate cancer is something our team watches carefully. You'll want to tell our team if your father, son, or brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and if there’s a history of breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer in your family.

You’re also at higher risk if you’ve previously been diagnosed with prostate cancer at any age. 

Take charge of your health 

One of the most powerful steps you can take to prevent, diagnose, and treat prostate cancer is to get a simple screening. It’s a quick test that our team performs during your annual wellness visit, and it’s often complemented by a blood test. 

You should get your first screening at age 50 if you don’t have any known prostate cancer risk factors, or begin screening at 45 if you’re at higher risk. If a man has more than one family member who was diagnosed before age 65, they should discuss screening with their doctor at age 40. 

Your screening typically consists of two steps. Our team performs a digital rectal exam (DRE) and they may also do a PSA blood test, which is a reading that determines the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) present in your system (raised levels can indicate prostate cancer).

When our team performs the DRE, you first change into a gown and lean forward with your legs apart and your arms resting on the exam table. Our team will describe everything that will happen before it happens so you can feel at ease and comfortable. 

Your doctor puts on a rubber glove and applies some lubricant to their gloved index finger. They then carefully insert their finger into your rectum for the purpose of manually examining your prostate gland and feeling for anything abnormal. 

The results of your first screening offer important baseline information on the size and shape of your prostate. If our team notices changes, we can perform further testing.  

Many men are nervous before getting their DRE, but the test is painless and brief, just a couple of minutes. You may feel a bit of pressure during your exam, but not pain. The exam can also help your doctor identify whether you have an enlarged prostate, which causes urination difficulties. 

What if the team finds something abnormal during my prostate screening?

If our team noticed anything unusual, they pursue more information and perform a PSA blood test if they didn’t include one before, as well as imaging tests or a biopsy. 

Often prostate cancer screening is scheduled yearly for men 50 and over, but recommendations vary, so be sure to discuss what your schedule should be with your doctor. 

Men and rates of healthcare avoidance

Unfortunately, men stay away from the doctor more than women and may not seek care even when there’s a problem. Some may consider going to the doctor un-masculine, but failing to get medical care — especially preventive care — is done at your peril. 

Don’t put off getting a prostate screening another day. Knowledge is power, and your health is so essential. 

Call the VItalityMDs office to schedule an appointment to get your prostate health questions answered and a screening or request an appointment with us online.

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