Prostate cancer is predominantly diagnosed through any one of three techniques: 1) Digital Rectal Exam (DRE); 2) PSA (prostate specific antigen) testing; 3) Biopsy testing. The DRE and PSA are considered to be “screening” tests; that is, tests used to find patients who might have prostate cancer. The biopsy test will likely be conducted only if a patient has abnormal results from a DRE or PSA test.
A DRE is basically a test of an individual’s lower rectum where the doctor will search for any growth or abnormalities (nodules) of the prostate. The DRE is generally conducted at an annual physical.
The PSA test calculates the level of PSA (prostate specific antigen – a protein that is produced in the prostate gland) within the blood. The test is taken via a small blood sample from the patient. One can not usually identify whether cancer is present simply by way of the results of the PSA; that is, if results are found to be unusual, more tests may be undertaken (such as the DRE or biopsy) to validate the results.
Lastly, a prostate biopsy consists of using a fine needle to collect tissue samples from the prostate gland and examine them for possible proof of cell irregularities. Prostate biopsy is regarded as the definitive test in putting together whether or not an individual has prostate cancer.
The Three Stages of Prostate Cancer
There are three various stages of prostate cancer: 1) early stage localized disease; 2) local advanced disease; 3) metastatic. In the first-stage of local disease, the cancer is constrained to the prostate alone. As the cancer grows, it spreads to nearby tissues bordering the prostate such as the seminal vesicles. Lastly, the cancer may spread (or “metastasize”) throughout other areas of the system into the bones, lungs, or liver.
The major risk factors for getting prostate cancer are:
Age – An individual’s chance of getting prostate cancer raises with age; the chance of getting prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50 and continues on until death.
Race/Ethnicity- African-American males have a greater risk profile for prostate cancer than males of other backrounds. Overall, African American males are more prone to die of prostate cancer than Caucasians, Asian-Americans, or Latino-Americans. Male Descendents of Afro-Caribbean parents are considered to be particularly at risk.
Family History – Research implies that individuals who have a genealogy and family history of prostate cancer may have a greater risk of obtaining prostate cancer.
Who should get screened?
– Adult men aged 50 years and above whose life expectancy could very well extend beyond ten years.
– High-risk individuals including African American men and those who have a biological dad, sibling, or son clinically determined to have prostate cancer before the age of sixty-five.