If you’re a man, prostate screenings play a key role in your ongoing health. At least one in eight American men develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives, and by age 60, more than 50% of men have an enlarged prostate.
The numbers only go up as you age, and at least 90% of men age 80 have this condition.
At Urology Associates Medical Group in Burbank, California, our providers use prostate screenings to monitor the health of your prostate and ensure you get the treatments you need as soon as possible.
Like many of our patients, you may feel anxious, worried, or scared about your first prostate screening. Don’t let this concern prevent you from getting the exam. Without this screening, it’s difficult for us to catch any issues before they become serious.
Rest assured that prostate screenings are quick and painless. To help put your nerves at ease, we’ve created this short guide, which covers everything you need to know about prostate screenings.
What is a prostate screening?
Prostate screenings help us diagnose different conditions or rule out prostate cancer. Your Urological Associates Medical Group provider determines which tests you need based on your age and any symptoms you have.
At a minimum, two components generally make up most prostate screenings: a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
PSA blood test
Your prostate gland secretes a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). All prostate cells, including cancerous cells, have this protein. A PSA test measures the levels of PSA in your blood.
We use this number to determine your risk of prostate cancer and other prostatic conditions. This test helps detect prostate cancer in its earliest stages so you can start treatment early, when it’s most effective.
Normal levels for a healthy man are 4 nanograms PSA/milliliter of blood. But all men differ, and having a higher or lower number doesn’t mean you have cancer. We use your number as a baseline to figure out when more testing may be required.
Digital rectal exam
We also use a DRE to feel the size and shape of your prostate gland. To do this, we insert a finger into your rectum. DREs help us check for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and signs of prostate cancer.
Who needs a prostate screening?
All men benefit from prostate screenings, but when you need a prostate screening varies. If you don’t have any symptoms, we determine this based on different factors, including your age, family history, ethnicity, and whether you have symptoms.
Most men have their first prostate screening between ages 45-55.
We may also order a screening if you have symptoms of prostate cancer or enlargement. These may include:
- Leaking urine before you reach the bathroom
- Having frequent, urgent need to urinate
- Having trouble emptying your bladder
- Dribbling urine after you go to the bathroom
- Having blood in your urine
- Developing erectile dysfunction
- Waking up at night to urinate
- Suffering pain or burning when urinating
Share these symptoms with your provider to ensure early intervention.
What happens during a DRE prostate exam?
The DRE is a quick, painless exam. The entire exam takes only minutes. You can ask us to tell you what we’re going to do at each step to help you stay calm and relaxed.
During the exam, we ask you to stand and bend forward so that your arms rest on the exam table. We wear a glove and cover a finger with lubricant. We then insert one finger into your rectum to examine your prostate.
You can expect some pressure, but no pain or discomfort. If you experience pain, tell us right away.
To examine your prostate, we may move the finger to feel the shape of the gland. This helps us identify any problems.
What happens after a prostate screening?
This depends on whether we notice an abnormality during your screening. If the results of your screening are normal, no follow-up is needed until your next exam. Most men have regular prostate screenings every year, but always follow your doctor’s recommendations.
If we identify a problem with your prostate, either through the PSA blood test or the DRE, you may need additional testing. Depending on the nature of the results, these tests may include:
- Additional PSA testing
- Imaging tests (e.g., transrectal ultrasound or MRI)
Based on the results of your tests, we create a personalized treatment plan. To set up a prostate screening or to learn more about the process, schedule an appointment today at Urological Associates Medical Group in Burbank, California.