While it may sound intimidating, a men’s prostate exam is an important test that helps spot prostate cancer, particularly when it could spread if left undetected. Understanding why this exam is necessary and what to expect can help alleviate any concerns you may have.
What Is a Prostate Exam?
A prostate exam is generally made up of two components:
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
The PSA test measures the levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen in the blood. It’s possible for high PSA levels to result from non-cancerous conditions, such as prostate enlargement or inflammation of the prostate, but elevated levels can sometimes be an indicator of prostate cancer.
Digital rectal exam (DRE)
A DRE is a physical examination performed by your doctor to assess the health of the prostate gland. The main objective of a DRE is to evaluate the size, texture, and overall condition of the prostate gland. Your doctor can check for any lumps, irregularities, or signs of enlargement that may suggest prostate problems, including cancer.
What Can I Expect During a Men’s Prostate Exam?
A PSA test is a straightforward blood test typically performed in your doctor’s office or laboratory.
A healthcare professional draws a blood sample from your arm, which is then sent to a laboratory for measurement of PSA levels
Once the results are in, your doctor will interpret them and discuss any findings with you.
Digital Rectal Exam
A DRE is a straightforward physical examination performed by your doctor.
You will be asked to bend forward or lie on your side during a DRE. Your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to assess the condition of your prostate areas. They will gently feel for any abnormalities.
This quick exam allows your doctor to check for any changes that may indicate a problem such as an enlarged prostate or signs of prostate cancer.
While it may be slightly uncomfortable, a DRE is generally not painful and only takes a few seconds to complete.
Your doctor will discuss the results of the exam with you immediately. The DRE is often paired with a PSA blood test for a more complete picture of your prostate health.
How Do I Prepare For a Men’s Prostate Exam?
The preparation needed for a prostate exam is minimal. It is recommended to inform your doctor about any conditions that might cause discomfort, such as:
- Hemorrhoids: swollen veins located in the lower part of the rectum or around the anus.
- Anal fissures: a small tear or cut in the membrane that surrounds the anal canal.
Also, ejaculation can temporarily affect PSA levels, causing them to be higher. Because this may affect your test results, your doctor may recommend abstaining from sexual activity 48 hours before the exam.
When to Talk To Your Doctor
It is a good idea to talk with your doctor if you haven’t had your first prostate exam, are concerned about your prostate health, or if you are experiencing symptoms of urinary obstruction such as:
- Increased frequency
- Incomplete bladder emptying
- Waking up during the night to urinate
- Dribbling or slowed urine flow
It’s recommended that most men have regular prostate exams starting at age 50.
Remember, getting a prostate exam can help diagnose problems early and make a significant difference in your long-term prostate health.
Don’t continue putting off your prostate exam — call us at 843.347.2450 to schedule an appointment today!