Whats Prostate Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

October 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer Test

Due to the absence of symptoms in early stage disease, prostate cancer may not be detectable by the patient early enough to save his life; due to the fact that prostate cancer is not curable in later stages, it is critical that the disease is detected early, or else it would advance, and then the man’s life would be reasonably in danger.

To that end, the American Cancer Society has instituted a number of prostate cancer screening programs that will aid in detecting the disease early enough to make a difference. In addition, they have urged that men approaching middle age should start to go for regular medical checkups at least once a year. The timing for this follows the fact that prostate cancer is not common among men younger than 45 years old, and its incidence steadily rises from 50 years of age.

The screening programs for prostate cancer generally begin with the DRE test – direct rectal examination. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum of the would-be patient and feels the organ in question for any anomalies such as a distortion, a swelling, or something of that nature.

It is an inconclusive test, but if the physician feels the need for it, he can order another test – the PSA test – to determine if indeed his suspicions are right. Even if the DRE test was negative, the PSA test being a step further up would certainly provide more information.

All men have a certain amount of prostate specific antigens in their blood, but if they are in good prostate health, the level is never up to 4.0ng/ml in the blood. Anything at that level or more is cause for concern, although it could mean that the man suffer from something else besides prostate cancer. Extracting some blood to be examined in the lab should provide the necessary information.

A lot does ride on the intuition of the oncologist or urologist in charge of the procedure, and on the paranoia of the man undergoing the screening. Even though both the DRE and PSA tests do not point directly to prostate cancer, either party may decide that a prostate biopsy is necessary.

During the biopsy a special needle is inserted into the organ the same way a DRE test is done, and tissue samples are extracted from it to be examined under a microscope in the laboratory. More than just telling that the man has prostate cancer (or not), the biopsy provides further critical information about the disease such as the Gleason numbers and the Gleason score, which more or less provide the first basic knowledge about the stage of the disease.

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