As the second most common cancer in men, prostate cancer awareness is important. While this cancer is common in men, it’s usually successfully treated when detected early. Prostate screenings and biopsies are vital when diagnosing prostate cancer and monitoring treatment for diagnosed cases. Since symptoms can be undetectable until later stages, knowing about what tests are available is the important first step to fighting prostate cancer.
Why You May Need To Be Tested
Certain factors may play a role in whether or not you need a prostate cancer screening, and also in what type of screening method is best for you. Certain symptoms involving urinary or sexual health problems may raise a red flag and are certainly a cause for concern. Risk factors may a play a role including family history and age.
Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer because research has shown that the chances of developing prostate cancer significantly increase after the age of 50. While 2 out of 3 prostate cancer cases appear to be linked to age, occurring in men over the age of 65, genetics and race also play a role in the heightened risk of prostate cancer. Since all prostate cancers are not the same, knowing these risk factors is important before considering testing.
Common Prostate Screening Tests
For men who may not experience any symptoms of prostate cancer, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests are most commonly used to screen for the disease. A PSA level over 4 nanograms per milliliter determines if a man has prostate cancer. Patients with levels over 4 ng/ml are not guaranteed to have prostate cancer, but the chances increase dramatically. This test is commonly performed in tandem with a physical exam or other tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
A transrectal ultrasound is often used if a patient has a high PSA or other symptoms. This exam is often used during prostate biopsies to guide the needles into the area of the prostate. Prostate biopsies are used to get samples of the prostate to test for cancerous cells. This procedure is known for being invasive and sometimes painful.
Imaging Tests Used For Monitoring Prostate Cancer
Imaging scans are commonly used to help monitor the spread of prostate cancer and determine whether treatment is effective or not. Since prostate cancer can often spread to bones, bone scans are used to show if the cancer has spread.
CT scans and MRI are our two most popular imaging scans for a reason - they are incredibly effective at capturing internal images of specific areas. In the case of prostate cancer, CT scans are used to track if prostate cancer has spread to nearby areas or is growing on additional organs. MRI’s are useful when specifically looking at the prostate gland. MRI is often used when determining which treatment options are best for a patient.
While prostate cancer is likely to develop in most men, this cancer is easily treated if detected early. Fortunately, imaging tests can be used to help diagnose this disease and monitor its spread over time. Two of our favorite imaging scans, CT and MRI, help track the spreading of prostate cancer and effectively treat it. We hope you learned more about prostate cancer and how you can help fight it.