Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Symptoms

Prostate cancer is usually a slowly progressing adenocarcinoma that produces no symptoms in the initial stages of the disease. But when the warning signs do eventually present themselves, they may include all or some of difficult or painful urination; frequent urination, especially at night; and blood in the urine or semen of the patient.

It is not uncommon to have a patient complain of pain in the lower back, pelvis, or upper thighs, an occurrence which generally is an indication that the prostate cancer isn’t any longer a prostate cancer, but metastatic disease cells that has spread to the ribs, pelvis, and other bones throughout the body.

The problem with the symptoms of prostate cancer is that they all actually could have other causes. For instance, an infection or prostate enlargement (BPH – benign prostate hypertrophy), may be the reason why urination is difficult and frequent and more painful; while regular bone pain may be caused by an injury or something. Considering that prostate enlargement is a natural result of the aging process, this is certainly not too farfetched. Therefore waiting for or diagnosing by symptoms may be a critical error.

Again, there are no early symptoms for prostate cancer, yet that is the time when the disease is most curable. Certainly it becomes most evident that actions have to be taken in order to detect and diagnose the disease early, so that early treatment can be accorded. To this end, most doctors perform screening tests during regular physical exams so as to identify prostate cancer early. These screening (diagnostic) tests include a digital rectal examination (DRE) and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test.

During the DRE, the physician slips a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the size, shape, and firmness of the prostate; a prostate cancer will cause a nodule or some other prostate irregularity to be felt in this manner. The PSA test measures the level of the protein or enzyme in the blood of the patient. Men all have PSA in their blood, but prostate cancer cells overproduce it. There is cause for alarm when the PSA level hovers above 4.0ng/ml, although it does not conclude that there is prostate cancer. Other infections and disorders of the prostate often cause PSA spikes. Even certain drugs do as well.

Usually, only if the other tests warrant it is a biopsy of the prostate gland done to confirm or refute the prostate cancer diagnosis. The biopsy requires that a needle is inserted through the wall of the rectum to extract a tissue sample from the prostate; examined under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells, the biopsy will tell if the patient has prostate cancer or not.

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