Although most cancers are diagnosed via a biopsy, a prostate cancer diagnosis relies on some screening tests early in the process before a final diagnosis is made. So exactly what are the steps and how is prostate cancer diagnosed?
Screening Tests For Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer can be asymptomatic, so screening tests are ways to determine if there may be cancer present in the prostate. The tests can’t actually say a man has cancer, but they can determine any abnormality.
Digital Rectal Exam or DRE
This screening test is usually the first one used. Southland Urology inserts a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum to look for lumps or anything unusual. Although it may be uncomfortable, it is not painful and it only takes a few seconds.
PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen blood test. PSA is a protein containing both normal and cancer cells in the prostate. The level of PSA is measured and if the results are in the lower level, it usually means there is no cancer present. Unfortunately, that is not always true.
When the level reaches 4 and above there may be a chance there is cancer present, but this is not a positive diagnosis. If the level is between 4 and 10, there is approximately a 1 in 4 chance there is cancer.
If the level is above 10, there is a 50% chance there is cancer.
Many conditions can affect PSA levels in men, so it is critical to ask Southland Urology about what could be causing your PSA number to be abnormal.
If you and your physician decide the risk of cancer is high enough to do a biopsy, that would be the next step to diagnose prostate cancer.
A biopsy is the best way to diagnose any cancer by removing tissue from the area for analysis. Doctors regard the Gleason Score as a way to assess the tissue, interpret if there is cancer, and if it is likely to spread.
The score ranges from 2 through 10. The lower the score means the cancer is less likely to spread.
Once the diagnosis is made, staging is the next step. This determines if the cancer is confined to the prostate or if it has spread to other organs. Additional tests will confirm the stage. This is critical in order to know what treatments you will need to keep the cancer within the prostate or prevent it from spreading further.
Since prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death for men in the United States, it is best to discover it early and to consult with your physician at Southland Urology about your treatment options.