No bigger than a walnut, your prostate gland sits between your bladder and your penis, where it performs a mighty function. A healthy prostate produces the seminal fluid that you ejaculate during an orgasm.
When things go wrong with your prostate, however, your entire body can be affected. In fact, Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States. Every year, about 250,000 men in the United States are newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 34,000 die from it.
Our medical experts at Low Testosterone & Weight Loss Center recommend regular prostate screenings as part of our men’s health services at our office in Allen, Texas. Here’s what to expect during your prostate screening.
Prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)
We usually perform the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test — which consists of a blood draw — before a digital rectal exam (DRE). That’s because anything that irritates your prostate — including an exam — could raise the levels of your PSA.
Your prostate produces a substance called PSA. When you have prostate cancer, your levels of PSA may rise dramatically.
However, many things affect your PSA, including your age and whether you’ve recently had a DRE or any other procedure that could irritate your prostate, including a catheter insertion into your nearby bladder.
“Normal” levels of PSA vary. Usually, anything below 4.0 ng/ml is considered normal. However, if you’re over 70, a PSA of 6.5 ng/ml could be normal.
Men in their 40s tend to have PSAs that range from about 0.4-0.7 ng/ml. Men in their 50s may range from 0.7 to 1.0 ng/ml.
Digital rectal exam (DRE)
The second part of prostate health screening consists of a physical examination of your prostate. Your medical professional palpates it to get a sense of its size. A normal prostate gland continues to grow as you age. However, if your prostate is getting too large too quickly, it could be a sign of trouble.
To reach the prostate, your examiner must insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum. Though it isn’t the most desirable procedure, it isn’t painful.
If your prostate is larger than normal, that doesn’t mean you have cancer. You may have prostatitis, which is an infection in your prostate that can cause swelling and pain. A simple course of antibiotics usually resolves it.
An enlarged prostate could also be a sign of a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is just a longer way of saying, “enlarged prostate.” Many men have BPH because the prostate is one of the only parts of the body that continues to grow as you age.
In most cases, BPH doesn’t cause distress. However, if your prostate gets too large, you may experience incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and other symptoms. We may prescribe medications to reduce the size of your prostate.
Who gets screened
During your annual men’s health exam, we conduct a DRE to make sure your prostate is normal. According to the American Cancer Society, men at average risk for prostate cancer don’t need to start screening with a PSA test until they’re 50 years old.
You may wish to begin PSA testing earlier to get a sense of your baseline normal levels. Medicare or your insurance may cover your PSA test if you’re 50 or older.
Men with a family history of prostate cancer or other risk factors may need to start screening earlier. General guidelines for your first PSA test are:
- Age 40: Men who are at highest risk for prostate cancer
- Age 45: Men at high risk for prostate cancer
- Age 50: Men at average risk for prostate cancer
Even if you only have an average risk (i.e., no personal or family history of prostate or related cancers), you may choose to get a baseline PSA test between the ages of 45-49. If your PSA is less than 2.5 ng/ml, you need a follow-up test every two years. If it’s 2.5 ng/ml or higher, you should be screened annually.
The good news is that, even if we find prostate cancer, it tends to be very slow-growing. If it’s a small cancer, we may even recommend a watch-and-wait approach. If you do need surgery, however, we remove the tumor and refer you to an oncologist.
Take care of your prostate today by scheduling a prostate cancer screening. Call us at 469-912-2113 or use our online form.