Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men. It doesn’t have noticeable warning signs, but it can be detected with a simple prostate exam and blood test. The earlier cancer is identified, the easier treatment will be.
Prostate exams are an effective method of screening for prostate cancer, and they should be part of every man’s routine health care as he gets older. However, prostate exams are typically digital rectal exams (DREs) — and if the thought of getting one makes you nervous, you’re not alone.
It’s normal to be uncomfortable with the idea of a prostate exam. John Monroe, MD, and our team at Healthy Life Family Medicine are experts in prostate care, and we’re here to help remove some of the confusion and stigma around this routine screening.
Getting a prostate exam doesn’t have to be a big deal. And, it could save your life.
What to expect with a prostate exam
Your prostate is a small gland near your bladder. It’s part of the male reproductive system, and it creates fluids that mix with sperm to create semen.
Prostate exams are a simple way for Dr. Monroe to evaluate the health of your prostate gland and screen for prostate cancer. Most prostate exams take just a few moments, and they can be combined with routine physical exams.
You may stand up and bend at the waist, or lie down on your side with your knees bent for your screening. Dr. Monroe gently inserts a gloved and lubricated finger inside your rectum, and presses on your prostate with his other hand.
During your screening, he checks for signs of an enlarged prostate, inflammation, or anything else unusual. You may feel some discomfort or the urge to urinate for a few moments, but these sensations will dissipate as soon as the test is done. We recommend focusing on breathing normally and relaxing to make the exam more comfortable.
Dr. Monroe may also order a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test along with your DRE, depending on your health and age. High levels of PSA in your blood could indicate an inflamed prostate, enlarged prostate, or certain types of prostate cancer.
When to get prostate exams
Since prostate cancer doesn’t cause obvious symptoms until it's in advanced stages, you shouldn’t wait until you notice changes in your health to get a prostate exam.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all men age 50 and over should talk to their doctors about starting routine prostate exams. Black men and men who have a family history of early prostate cancer diagnosis are considered at high risk of developing prostate cancer. If you’re high risk, consider talking to your doctors about starting prostate exams around age 45 or earlier.
Along with age-based screening recommendations, take time to familiarize yourself with the signs of a possible prostate condition. Enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia, is a prostate condition that’s common among older men.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include:
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak urine stream
- Urination that stops and starts
- Dribbling at end of urination
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Inability to fully empty bladder
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, talk to Dr. Monroe. He may recommend a prostate exam to diagnose your condition.
Prostate exams take just moments of your time, and they provide valuable insight into your health. To find out more about these important screenings, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Monroe.