Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States. A prostate exam is one of the screening tools for prostate cancer. Though prostate cancer is common, when you schedule your prostate exam depends on many factors.
At MS Family Medicine Health Care PC in Rosedale and Garden City, New York, our team, led by our board-certified family medicine physician, Michele Reed, DO, FAAFP, takes a proactive approach to primary care that focuses on wellness and prevention. We perform many health screenings, including prostate exams for prostate cancer.
Here, we explain when and why you should schedule a prostate exam.
About the prostate exam
The prostate exam is the screening tool used to detect prostate cancer. It includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
PSA blood test
PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland, which is the gland below your bladder that makes seminal fluid. It’s normal to have low levels of PSA in your blood. However, if the PSA levels in your blood are higher than normal, this can indicate the presence of prostate cancer.
However, having high PSA levels doesn't mean you necessarily have prostate cancer. An enlarged prostate and certain medications can also cause PSA levels that are higher than normal.
For the DRE, your health care provider inserts a gloved finger into your rectum, feeling the prostate gland for abnormalities. The DRE is fast and painless.
When you need a prostate exam
The general guideline is that all men have a prostate exam by the time they turn 50.
However, if you have a family history of prostate cancer or you’re a person of color, you should schedule your prostate exam when you turn 45. And, if you have a parent or sibling who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age, you should schedule this exam when you turn 40.
You then need to repeat your prostate exam every 1-2 years thereafter.
Why prostate exams are important
A prostate exam is important because finding prostate cancer during the early stages gives you more treatment options. However, the prostate exam alone can’t definitively determine if you have prostate cancer.
If the results of your PSA or DRE are abnormal, you need a biopsy of the prostate to confirm or rule out cancer. However, we may not need to do a biopsy right away. We may suggest a second PSA test or a more specialized PSA test before moving ahead with a biopsy.
In most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and highly treatable.
Is it time for your prostate exam? To get your exam or to see if you need one, book an appointment online or over the phone with MS Family Medicine Health Care PC today.