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How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed
From the desk of Dr Magne, author of Cancer Free For Life
The prostate gland is a small, hormone producing organ that encircles the upper part of the urethra. It is only found in men, and is responsible for the creation of certain male hormones. It is vital to proper sexual functioning and to regular bladder control. The prostate gland is necessary in order to survive, reproduce and just live comfortably, making conditions that affect it of the utmost importance.
You may have had a DRE (digital rectal examination) and a blood test for a substance called PSA (prostate specific antigen) to look for signs of cancer. If your PSA result is higher than expected for your age, a more detailed analysis may help determine if it's prostate cancer, or another prostate problem.
Digital rectal examination (DRE)
A digital rectal examination (DRE) is the most common way to screen for prostate cancer. During your annual physical check-up, your doctor places a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. Most prostate cancers develop in the peripheral zone, which is the part of the prostate that lies closest to the rectum. This makes it easy to feel for lumps, irregularities or changes in size or consistency.
A normal prostate feels smooth and rubbery. Abnormalities detected by DRE may suggest a need for more tests.
Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer
The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. It measures a substance called prostate specific antigen made by the prostate. It is normal to find small quantities of PSA in the blood but problems with your prostate can cause your PSA level to rise.
PSA levels vary according to age and tend to rise gradually in men as they age . Elevated levels of PSA can be caused by several prostate problems and not necessarily cancer. Sometimes men with prostate cancer still have normal PSA levels. If you have an enlarged prostate that is non-cancerous , your PSA level may also be high.
A number of special tests are usually necessary to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis. They include:
Cells or tissues are removed from the body and checked under a microscope. If the cells are cancerous, they may be studied further to see how fast they are growing.
There are many ways to do a biopsy. A prostate biopsy is often taken during an ultrasound. Several samples of prostate tissue are removed through the rectum. This is uncomfortable but not painful, and is done with a local anesthetic. The tissue is checked for signs of cancer and to estimate its grade. The grade of a tumour tells you how active or aggressive the tumour is. In prostate cancer the grade is usually described as a Gleason score from 2 to 10. The lower the score the better.
X-rays, ultrasound, CT scans (computerized axial tomography), MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and bone scans allow tissues, organs and bones to be examined in more detail. They may be uncomfortable but are usually painless. An ultrasound is typically the only imaging study needed to diagnose prostate cancer.
To stop cancer from ever returning, you must completely stop cancer at its source. Cancer is foremost a psychological disease and its appearance in your body is a sign that at a deep level, your life is not working. Unless you approach and treat ALL the areas of your life, cancer is likely to re-occur.
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