Prostate Cancer Exam

What is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a small organ below the bladder, with the urethra running through the center of it. Within this walnut-shaped gland, seminal fluid combines with sperm to become the semen expelled during ejaculation.

As with other types of cancer, Prostate Cancer develops when cells grow out of control. If untreated, the cancer may metastasize to other parts of the body, resulting in serious health consequences and even fatality.


Prostate Cancer vs Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

In nearly all men, the prostate will increase in size during the aging process. This is known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and is not dangerous, nor does it increase the risk of cancer. Prostatic enlargement may also be due to infection. Enlargement of the prostate and Prostate Cancer may sometimes occur together, however they are two distinct conditions.

When a man’s prostate becomes enlarged, whether due to BPH or cancer, the man may initially notice that it becomes more difficult for him to urinate. It may take longer for his stream to begin flowing and it may also pass more slowly than usual. There may be a burning sensation and the urge to urinate may become much more urgent as well as more frequent.

In cases of actual Prostate Cancer, the above urinary symptoms are still likely to be present however there will usually be additional clues to the prostate’s true condition.

One of the most alarming signs of Prostate Cancer would likely be the presence of blood in a man’s urine and/or semen. This is not likely to go unnoticed and is a very clear indicator that the health problem is more than simple BPH.

Other signs may include: erectile dysfunction; bone pain in the lower back, hips, and pelvic region; and pain during ejaculation.


Known Risk Factors

While the exact causes of Prostate Cancer have not been discovered, there are some factors which have been established to increase an individual’s risk for developing the disease.

After a man surpasses 50 years of age, his risk of developing Prostate Cancer becomes much higher.

African-American men are the most susceptible to developing this condition and, if they do, it is also more likely to advance quickly and aggressively.

A family history of either Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, or both, are at higher risk of developing Prostate Cancer themselves, especially if their relatives were young at the time of their diagnosis.

Being obese and eating a high-fat diet increases the risk of Prostate Cancer.

Infrequent ejaculation and especially sexual celibacy has been linked to an increase in rates of Prostate Cancer. Men with an active sex life (and particularly those who ejaculate at least three times per week) have a lower risk of developing a cancerous growth in their prostate.


Screening Methods

The most common method of screening for changes in a man’s prostate is through a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) in which a physician manually investigates a man’s prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the patient’s rectum. While many men find this process to be awkward and embarassing, it lasts only a couple of seconds and is one of the simplest ways to detect changes in the prostate.

Due to the fact that DRE only allows the doctor to investigate one side of the prostate, a Prostate-Specific Andigen Test may be performed. This entails a blood draw, which is then examined for high levels of PSA, which may signify a potential problem. It is worth noting that PSA levels vary from one man to another and even from one day to the next, depending on factors such as hormone levels and recent sexual activity.

If Prostate Cancer seems likely, the physician may recommend that a biopsy be performed. A small tissue sample is taken and examined under a microscope to determine whether tumor cells are present and, if so, what stage the cancer has progressed to.


Available Treatments

Depending upon how aggressive a particular cancer is, different treatments may be recommended.

In cases where the Prostate Cancer seems to be progressing slowly and there is a very low risk of cancerous cells metastasizing, active surveillance may be attempted first in order to monitor the disease’s progression and delay further invasive treatments.

In cases where the cancer is particularly aggressive, has advanced quite far, or is significantly impacting the patient in other ways (such as by obstructing the flow of urine) a surgery known as radical prostatectomy may be performed. This may be either an open procedure or it may be done laparoscopically, to minimize the size of scars and risk of infection. The drawbacks of prostate surgery include erectile dysfunction (present to some degree in all men who have undergone removal of the prostate gland), permanent infertility, reduced sexual sensitivity, and little or no fluid ejaculated during orgasm. There is also a potential risk of urinary incontinence. 

As with other types of cancers, radiation and chemotherapy may be viable treatments for a patient suffering from Prostate Cancer, however they are usually used in conjunction with surgery rather than as the sole cure.

There are a number of treatments which may be suitable for men who are not good candidates for Prostatectomy, such as hormone therapy, Androgen Deprivation Therapy, High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound, and Cryotherapy, however most of these treatments are very new and either less-effective than desired or (in the case of cryotherapy) the potential risks – in that case fistula – may be disastrous.

Immunotherapy is a new technique which is still in development. The body’s own immune system is stimulated to attack and fight cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells intact. So far one treatment – known as Provenge – has been shown to slow the progression of Prostate Cancer, but further testing must be done in order to make this a viable cure for the disorder.

Published by John Rogers

Hello. I am specialist in the treatment of erectile dysfunction from Melbourne, Australia.

Join the Conversation


  1. I never used to get my prostate checked, but then I found out my dad had prostate cancer. I still thought I was pretty young, but I began getting yearly checkups to make sure.

  2. Prostate cancer is a serious issue. One man did not want to go to the doctor. However, his wife urged him to go. Now, the man is glad that his wife urged him to go, because it helped him to live. After that, his PSA levels increased. The doctors only wanted to watch over his PSA levels for some time. The doctors were bothered by the PSA levels but not too much. Within a couple of months, the man’s team that consisted of a radiation oncologist, urologist, and medical oncologist said to him that he had to have surgery to get rid of his prostate. A urologist told the man honestly that he couldn’t heal the man, but said that it could be managed. As a result, the man has been struggling with prostate cancer for six and a half years. He is by himself and has no family where he lives in Michigan. Sometimes it can be difficult and sorrowful for him. The man has a couple of acquaintances he can rely on. He sits at home several times. Overall, it is important to go to your doctor if you think something is wrong. That way, you can get the help that you need. The man is glad that both his wife and the doctors helped him.

  3. Luckily with me, prostate cancer was an early diagnosis. I was just one of the few who didn’t have any issues until it was diagnosed during a routine exam. It was quickly dealt with and after 6 months I was back on my feet and ready to go on with my life. Be sure to get screened if you are at risk!

  4. Prostate cancer has been something I have always feared, but to scared to discuss with my primary care physician. My wife made me to go to doctor and get my PSA levels checked. I was flagged for elevated levels and my medical team advised me to examine the route of prostate removal.

  5. Coming from a family with some genetic history of cancer, I always maintain regular checkups for my concerns as well as my family’s. Over time my PSAs have been rising, however, nothing has been out of the ordinary. It is always important to maintain a regular bill of health when it comes to prostate cancer.

  6. I always thought it wouldn’t happen to me, but when I started issues with my bladder and being able to go to the bathroom, I knew there was something wrong. Now I have a diagnosis of prostate cancer and it’s completely turned my world upside down.

  7. I never thought I could be someone that got cancer… until I did. I started having pains and frequent urination about a year ago. My family kept telling me I should go get it checked out but I didn’t listen. How I wish I would have listened to them now. Currently, I am diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. Doctors say with new treatments these days I might still have some years left.

  8. My brother has had surgery for prostate cancer. My doctor has found high readings in PSA tests for me. I have been for three biopsy’s in ten years and in each case the urologist has found no problem. He says I do not have an enlarged prostate. Instead, I have LARGE prostate, and that is the cause of my high PSA readings. I continue to be monitored for my PSA in annual tests with my family doctor and will continue to stay on top of this issue.

  9. Going through several types of treatment and surgery while battling prostate cancer has been a very heartbreaking and painful journey. I constantly worry about my own health but the mental health of my family and i worry i am too much of a burden on them

  10. I get regular physicals so that I stay apprised on my health. I don’t want to have any health surprises especially when it comes to my prostate health and knowing that I have relatives that have been diagnosed.

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