In some cases prostate cancer is only discovered when a man goes to his specialist experiencing symptoms that may be early indicators. Frequently, however, prostate cancer is often revealed by testing men who have no apparent signs or indications of the disease. This is called screening. Screening refers to testing specifically designed to detect diseases such as prostate cancer in patients who aren’t exhibiting any symptoms. In many instances and for certain types of cancers, screening can aid in detecting cancers at an early stage when they are manageable and in most cases easily curable. One test which is most frequently used in detecting prostate cancer is:
Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
PSA is a protein which is secreted by the prostate gland and found in elevated levels in the patient’s blood. These elevated levels are signs that the patient may have developed a disease of the prostate most notably, prostate cancer. PSA is “specific” because the antigens which are being screened are only present in the prostate. A sample of the patient’s blood is exposed to the antibody against PSA. This is done to measure the specific amount of antigen (PSA)
The second test used to detect prostate cancer is:
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
A digital rectal examination is performed simply by inserting a gloved finger which is lubricated into the patient’s rectum and feeling for lumps. Its purpose is for detecting any non-cancerous abnormalities such as hemorrhoids or anal fissures. However DRE has proven to be an effective tool in screening for prostate cancer.
While screening for prostate cancer is your best defense in both detecting and preventing prostate cancer cancer early, there are limits to the current methods used today. The PSA and the DRE can often times have abnormal results which means that neither test is truly 100% accurate. Often times men who don’t have prostate cancer have what is called “false positive” result and men with prostate cancer can have results called “false negative”. The American Cancer Society suggests that men gather enough information to make an informed decision with their physician before considering being screened. Obtaining information detailing what is known about both screening methods, in addition to discussing with your doctor any of potential risks or benefits associated with having yourself screened is also recommended.