Prostate Exams: What You Need to Know
Posted 8/10/2016 by UHBlog
If you think a prostate exam is the height of humiliation, you’re not alone. Many men put off this simple screening used to detect prostate cancer – one of the leading causes of death in men. Yet when you choose to avoid a prostate exam, a lot more is at stake than just your personal health and well-being. Your entire family is affected.
“Prostate cancer is not just a man’s disease,” says urologist Kiranpreet Khurana, MD. “When a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the disease affects his wife or partner, children and parents. From the diagnosis to the rehabilitation required after treatment, a lot is at stake for the man’s entire family.”
In fact, studies show how severe the consequences can be on a man’s family. Men, on average, die five years earlier than women. The wife or partner often deal with negative socioeconomic issues as a result of a man’s early death. Additionally, if there are children, they often have a lower socioeconomic status and lower educational levels.
According to Dr. Khurana, many men avoid going to the doctor, even though one out of four visits is related to something urological, such as frequently or urgently urinating – symptoms associated with prostatic enlargement or prostate cancer – and erectile dysfunction. That's why she says it's important for wives and partners to encourage their significant other to go to the doctor. More frequent visits to your doctor not only detects problems sooner, but they help to develop a good patient-doctor relationship.
“The idea of a prostate exam can cause some men to be very fearful,” she says. “Number one, they don’t know what to expect, and secondly, they don’t go to a doctor often. In fact, men only use health care services at one-third the rate that women do.”
A prostate screening actually consists of two exams: a blood test and a digital rectal exam.
“The exam itself is very simple,” Dr. Khurana says. “You go to see your doctor, who talks to you about your family history. Then using a lubricated, gloved finger, your doctor inserts the finger into the rectum and feels the surface of the prostate gland. The exam isn’t painful and takes less than a minute to perform.”
The blood test helps detect early stage prostate cancer, which is when it’s most easily treated. Known as a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, it measures the level of the PSA protein in your blood. An elevated level of PSA may indicate the presence of cancer or another condition, like an inflamed prostate.
“The earlier you're treated for prostate cancer, the better your outcome will be,” Dr. Khurana says. When caught early, the disease has almost a 100 percent survival rate.
Dr. Khurana says that even though there is some controversy about when to start prostate screenings, certain people are more at risk of developing the disease. Those at higher risk are:
- Men 55 years of age or older
- African American men
- Men with a brother, son or father who had prostate cancer
People at higher risk should start prostate screenings at age 40. Otherwise, the recommended age to begin this screening is at age 55.
Kiranpreet Khurana, MD is a urologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Khurana or any doctor online.