Prostate cancer is a serious issue that affects an estimated one in eight men. The good news is that if detected early, this cancer can be treated successfully. Start a search today to learn more about the symptoms of prostate cancer and available screening methods.
Digital Rectal Examination
A digital rectal examination (DRE) is a physical examination in which a healthcare provider inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. During the exam, the doctor can check for any abnormalities, such as lumps or growths, that may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. While a DRE may not be the most comfortable or preferred screening method for many men, it is an important tool for detecting prostate cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men discuss the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening with their healthcare provider, including a DRE, starting at age 50 for most men. Men who are at higher risk, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer or African American men, may need to start screening earlier.
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is a screening tool used to detect prostate cancer. The test measures the level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland, in the blood. Elevated levels of PSA can indicate the presence of prostate cancer, but they can also be caused by other factors, such as an enlarged prostate or a prostate infection. Therefore, a PSA test is not a definitive diagnostic tool, but it can help detect prostate cancer early and when it is most treatable.
Men should discuss the benefits and risks of PSA testing with their healthcare provider, as the test can lead to false positives and unnecessary biopsies. However, when used appropriately, PSA testing can be an important part of a comprehensive prostate cancer screening program.
Other Special Types of PSA Tests
Other special types of PSA tests can help diagnose prostate cancer. For example, a free PSA test measures the amount of PSA that is not bound to other proteins in the blood. In men with elevated PSA levels, a high percentage of free PSA may indicate a lower risk of prostate cancer, while a low percentage may indicate a higher risk.
Another type of PSA test is the PSA velocity, which measures how quickly PSA levels are rising over time. A rapid rise in PSA levels may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. These special types of tests can provide additional information to help diagnose prostate cancer and determine the best course of treatment.
Imaging tests can be an effective screening tool for prostate cancer. One of the most common imaging tests used to detect prostate cancer is a transrectal ultrasound (TRUS). During a TRUS, a small probe is inserted into the rectum, which uses sound waves to create images of the prostate gland. The images can help detect any abnormalities, such as lumps or growths, that may indicate the presence of cancer.
Another imaging test that may be used is a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. MRI scans use a powerful magnet and radio waves to create detailed images of the prostate gland. MRI scans can be particularly useful for detecting prostate cancer in its early stages, as they can detect small tumors that may not be visible on other imaging tests. Additionally, MRI scans can help guide biopsies and determine the best course of treatment.
A prostate biopsy is a medical procedure that involves removing small tissue samples from the prostate gland to be examined under a microscope. It is often used as a follow-up to abnormal results on other screening tests, such as a digital rectal exam or a PSA blood test. A biopsy can confirm the presence of prostate cancer and determine the aggressiveness of the cancer cells, which help doctors develop an appropriate treatment plan.
During a biopsy, a thin needle is inserted into the prostate gland through the rectum or the perineum, which is the area between the scrotum and the anus. The needle removes small samples of tissue from the prostate gland, which are then examined under a microscope. While a biopsy can be an uncomfortable procedure, it is generally safe and can provide valuable information.
First Signs of Prostate Cancer
The first signs of prostate cancer can be difficult to identify, as they often mimic symptoms of other, less serious conditions. However, it’s important for men to be aware of the first clues of prostate cancer, as early detection is key to successful treatment. One of the most common early warning signs of prostate cancer is difficulty urinating. This can include a weak or interrupted urine flow, a need to urinate more frequently (especially at night), and a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying.
Another early warning sign of prostate cancer is blood in the urine or semen. This can be alarming, but it’s important to note that blood in the semen or urine can also be caused by other conditions, such as an infection or injury. Nevertheless, it’s important to see your doctor right away to determine the cause and rule out prostate cancer.
Other possible first clues of prostate cancer include pain or discomfort during urination or ejaculation, difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, and pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or thighs. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor and get checked for prostate cancer. Remember, early detection can save lives.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
Prostate cancer treatment options depend on the stage and severity of the cancer. For early-stage prostate cancer, treatments such as active surveillance, surgery, or radiation therapy may be recommended. However, for advanced stages, there are new breakthrough treatments that are changing the game for patients.
One of the newest treatments for advanced prostate cancer is the use of Apalutamide. Apalutamide is a medication that blocks the effects of male hormones, which can fuel the growth of prostate cancer cells. Clinical trials have shown that Apalutamide can significantly improve overall survival and delay disease progression in patients with advanced prostate cancer.
Another breakthrough treatment for advanced prostate cancer is the medication called Xtandi, which has been shown to significantly extend survival and delay disease progression in patients with metastatic prostate cancer.
A recently approved medication for advanced prostate cancer is called Nubeqa. This medication is used in combination with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and has been shown to significantly improve overall survival and delay disease progression in patients with non-metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. These new treatments are giving hope to patients with advanced prostate cancer, and research is ongoing to find even more effective treatments for this disease.