During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month remember—when you detect prostate cancer early your chances of successful treatment go up exponentially. The importance of early detection ranks right up there with knowing your risks and practicing prevention, prostate topics covered in an earlier story on YRMC HealthConnect.
One of the best ways to detect prostate cancer early is through regular screening. When should you start? That’s a conversation for you and your doctor. Your doctor can recommend a screening routine after taking your risk factors into account. These primarily include family history, race and age. Screenings typically begin between 40 and 50.
Routine screening includes a digital rectal exam (DRE) where your doctor examines the size and shape of your prostate with a gloved finger. Typically, your doctor also checks the level of your prostate-specific antigen (PSA). This test measures the amount of PSA in your blood. It is often ordered as part of routine blood work done at your regular checkup. PSA is a protein produced by cells in the prostate. Since cancerous cells tend to produce more PSA, a spike in your PSA level, or a steady increase over time, may signify a problem. But it may not. That’s why more tests are often needed.
When a DRE or PSA test reveal something abnormal in your prostate, you may need further testing to rule out prostate cancer. This often entails a biopsy where sample tissues are examined under a microscope. However, this method can cause incontinence and erectile disfunction over time. It also carries the risk of infection. A safer way to detect intermediate to high risk cancers is through a prostate MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). This method lowers the risk of incontinence and impotence associated with excessive biopsies.
Yavapai Regional Medical Center now offers prostate MRIs. An MRI is a good option for those who have an elevated PSA and want to avoid frequent biopsies. Or for those who want to get a prostate MRI to confirm biopsy results. Please discuss these options with your doctor. A prostate MRI is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare.
If you receive a confirmed diagnosis of prostate cancer, the next step is to determine the extent, or the stage, of the disease. After assessing your stage, your doctor will help you determine next steps—whether it’s best to repeat the tests after a period of time or to begin treatment for prostate cancer.
To learn more about treatment options for prostate cancer please watch for the next HealthConnect posting on prostate cancer. This information is provided by YRMC as part of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.