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What Should I Expect from Prostate Screening?

By Charity Delich
Updated May 16, 2024
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Prostate screening involves testing a man for signs of prostate cancer, a disease that attacks the prostate in some men. If you are undergoing prostate screening, you will probably take either a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test or a digital rectal exam (DRE). If one or both of these tests are positive, you may also undergo a more invasive procedure called a prostate biopsy. These screenings are typically conducted at a doctor’s office.

A PSA test measures a patient’s PSA, which is a protein generated by the patient’s prostate and discharged into the patient’s bloodstream. If a patient develops prostate cancer, greater amounts of PSA are usually discharged into his bloodstream. When PSA amounts reach a certain level, they can be picked up by a PSA blood screening.

During a PSA blood screening, a health care professional usually draws a small amount of blood from the patient’s vein. This blood sample is then measured to determine the amount of PSA in the patient’s blood. If a patient tests positive, meaning he has a high level of PSA, he may have prostate cancer. This is not, however, automatically the case. High levels of PSA can also indicate other medical conditions are present, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia or prostatitis.

Usually, a patient who has positive PSA tests can expect to repeat the test. Prior to repeating the test, some doctors may elect to treat any infections in the prostate. Many doctors recommend avoiding ejaculation or bike riding for at least 48 hours before taking a second PSA test. A doctor may also wish to conduct a DRE prostate screening or a prostate biopsy on a patient who has positive PSA test results.

A DRE prostate screening is generally more invasive than a PSA test. During a DRE screening, a doctor typically puts his or her lubricated, gloved finger in the patient’s rectum in order to feel the prostate. The prostate is then inspected for any abnormal symptoms, such as irregular size or shape or a texture that is lumpy or hard.

A prostate biopsy is often used as a follow-up to a positive PSA or DRE prostate screening. During a prostate biopsy, a doctor takes a tissue sample from the patient’s prostate gland using a thin needle. An anesthetic is usually prescribed for a prostate biopsy, which is performed through the perineum or the rectum. A patient is often required to take an enema before undergoing a rectal prostate biopsy. After the procedure, patients are often sore and may see blood in their urine, stools, or semen for a few weeks.

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