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The Importance of a Prostate Exam

Aug 24, 2016 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Let’s be honest. No man looks forward to having a prostate exam. Just the thought of it makes most men cringe, however, a prostate exam can be the difference between life and death. For men, the greatest risk of cancer statistically throughout life comes from a walnut-sized gland called the prostate that sits just below the bladder. For reasons not fully understood, as men age the prostate becomes increasingly susceptible to cancer. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, and according to the American Cancer Society, it will put one in six men at risk at some point in their life. Behind lung cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among men.

But the good news is prostate cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer—if it is caught early. And that is why a prostate exam is so important. Survival rates for prostate cancer identified in its earliest stages are over 90 percent. However, because symptoms are often nonexistent, many men never find out they have the disease until it’s too late. That’s why early detection is key and regular screenings are important. In fact when prostate cancer is detected in the earliest stages, many times they are followed with an active surveillance protocol where the patient is followed with prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and rectal examinations unless the disease progresses.

It has been recommended that regular prostate exams should begin at the age of 55. If men have a strong family history of prostate cancer or are in a high-risk category for the disease, then they will usually start prostate exams earlier at the discretion of their urologist.

The exam itself is fairly straightforward and done in two parts. First a blood test is conducted to determine signs of prostate cancer. The prostate gland produces a protein called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). All men’s prostate glands produce a PSA level. An elevation in this level or any changes may be an indication of cancer; however this test is not completely accurate and PSA may also elevate with benign enlargement of the prostate or infections. The second part of the test is the digital rectal exam or DRE, a common prostate exam procedure that can be performed by a doctor. The test can usually be completed in a minute or less. The DRE is very effective and will give the doctor a good idea if the prostate is indeed cancerous.

Prostate exams are nothing to be embarrassed about nor should they be avoided. Millions of men are alive today because they decided to have their exam. So if you fit the criteria call your doctor and schedule one today.
The Importance of a Prostate Exam was provided by the Baltimore/Washington Medical Center.

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