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Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines: Everything You Should Know

Prostate Cancer Screening Guidelines: Everything You Should Know

Regular prostate screenings play an important role in men’s ongoing health. This is especially true since at least 1 in 8 American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and about 50% of men between the ages of 51 and 60 have an enlarged prostate.  

At Urological Associates in Charlottesville, Virginia, our board-certified providers use prostate screenings to monitor the health of your prostate. This helps ensure any conditions that develop get identified early so you can start treatment as soon as possible. 

We also know many men don’t know what to expect during a prostate cancer screening or when to start the process. This can mean avoiding or missing the exam, which makes it difficult to catch problems in a timely manner. 

That’s why we created this short guide that covers what you need to know about prostate screenings and when you should schedule an appointment with your provider.    

Prostate screenings 101

Your provider uses prostate screenings to diagnose and/or monitor different conditions or rule out prostate cancer. Different tests can be included in the screening. 

Your Urological Associates provider decides which tests you should have based on your age and any symptoms you have. For most men, at least two components make up most prostate screenings: the PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). 

PSA blood test

The prostate gland secretes a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). All prostate cells, including non-cancerous and cancerous cells, have this protein. The PSA blood test measures how much of this protein is present in your blood. 

Using the results of your PSA blood test, your provider determines your risk of prostate cancer and other prostatic conditions. The good news is that the PSA test helps your provider find prostate cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is most effective.

Interpreting results from a PSA blood test is a bit complex since all men vary in their baseline numbers. Generally, normal PSA levels for a healthy man are four nanograms PSA/milliliter of blood or less. 

Digital rectal exam 

Along with the PSA blood test, most prostate screenings also involve a digital rectal exam (DRE). During this test, your provider checks the size and shape of your prostate gland to screen for benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlarged prostate) and signs of prostate cancer. 

Some men worry about this exam, but rest assured that the DRE is a quick, painless exam that only takes minutes. Your provider explains what they’re going to do each step of the way, so you remain relaxed and calm during your exam.  

Generally, your provider has you stand and bend forward with your arms resting on the exam table. Wearing a glove and using lubricant, your doctor then inserts one finger into your rectum and physically examines your prostate.

Your provider may move their finger to feel the shape of the gland so they can identify any problems. You might feel some pressure, but the DRE shouldn’t cause you any pain or discomfort. 

Timelines for prostate screenings

All men should have prostate screenings, but the timeline for when you need a prostate screening varies based on different factors, including your age, ethnicity, medical and family history, previous screenings, and whether you have symptoms. 

Your Urological Associates provider uses these factors to recommend the right prostate screening timeline for you. Generally, most men get their first prostate cancer screening between ages 45-55 and then have them based on the recommendation of their provider at regular intervals. 

Your provider may order a screening earlier or more frequently if you develop symptoms of prostate cancer or an enlarged prostate, such as but not limited to:

If you have any of these symptoms, don’t wait to share them with your Urological Associates provider. Early detection of any prostate issues helps ensure early treatment, when it’s more effective.  

What happens after your screening

The next steps after your prostate screening depend on whether your provider notices an abnormality. For normal results, no follow-up is needed until your next exam. If your provider notices a problem with your prostate, you might need additional testing, which may include:

Your provider creates a personalized treatment plan based on the results of your tests. To set up a prostate screening or learn more about the process, schedule an appointment at Urological Associates in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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