The health of your prostate is essential for your overall well-being. If you are a male over 50 years of age or if you have trouble passing urine, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a prostate examination. We at UAB Medical West understand that you may have many questions about the best time to start getting prostate exams and what to expect during one. So, we put together this helpful guide to help answer your questions about your prostate health.
What is a Prostate?
The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system that also includes the penis, testicles, and seminal vesicles. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located deep inside the groin, between the penis and the rectum. The prostate produces seminal fluid (semen) that mixes with sperm from the testes to help sperm survive and travel.
The prostate is essential for reproduction, and a healthy prostate is vital for your overall health. Prostate exams are important for early detection and successful treatment of prostate cancer and can help you lead a healthier and happier life.
Who Should Get a Prostate Exam?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men should discuss prostate exams with their doctor once they turn 50. Some high-risk individuals should start prostate cancer screenings as early as 45. You are considered a high-risk individual if you are African American or have a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer before the age of 65.
Prostate cancer is much easier to treat before it spreads, so you should discuss your risk factors with your doctor and determine the correct time to begin prostate cancer screenings. Some prostate cancers are so slow-growing that they don't require immediate treatment, but early detection can still improve treatment outcomes.
What is a Digital Rectal Exam?
The most common way to check for prostate cancer is by completing a digital rectal exam. A rectal exam is a quick and easy procedure performed at your doctor's office. At the beginning of the exam, your doctor will ask you to bend at your waist while standing or to lie down and bring your knees to your chest.
Your doctor will then gently place a gloved and lubricated finger inside your rectum and delicately press on your prostate. The doctor's other hand will press on your pelvic area, with the whole examination lasting only a few moments. You may experience some mild discomfort, and if your prostate is enlarged or inflamed, you may get an urge to urinate. But overall, the prostate exam should be a quick and painless exam that can have tremendous positive outcomes for your health.
What is a Prostate-Specific Antigen Exam
Another way for your doctor to screen for prostate cancer is to order a blood test that examines your PSA levels. PSA is a protein that helps liquefy semen, and elevated levels of PSA in your bloodstream may suggest the presence of an infected, inflamed, or enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Unfortunately, prostate-specific antigen exams may result in false negatives or false positives, so it is important to discuss the pros and cons of this test with your doctor.
Staying diligent about your prostate health can help prevent prostate cancer and ensure that you live a full, healthy life. UAB Medical West knows how important it is to get regular prostate cancer screenings. We are committed to providing you with the latest information and resources regarding prostate exams and your prostate health. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out!
UAB Medical West in Birmingham, Alabama, Care About Your Prostate Health
Early detection of prostate cancer can help ensure successful treatment and even save your life. UAB Medical West is here to help you keep on top of your prostate cancer screenings. If you have any questions about your prostate health or would like to schedule a prostate examination, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance. Contact us today!