The prostate is a very important gland found in the male body that produces the main component in semen. Good prostate health is very important to the male reproduction system, and without good prostate health, men can have problems reproducing. Many common prostate problems can be infection or inflammation of the prostate, which is called prostatitis. Men over the age of 50 are at risk for prostate cancer, which is the most common type of cancer a man can get.
Direct Rectal Exam
A direct rectal exam is the most common exam a doctor will use to examine your prostate health. The doctor will slide a gloved, lubricated finger into the anus and up to the prostate gland to feel around for any abnormalities. The doctor can tell if your prostate is enlarged, infected, has any bumps or irregularities or if it is in good health. If the doctor suspects that you may have a prostate infection, he will likely massage your prostate during the examination to obtain some fluid for further microscopic examination.
PSA Blood Test
To find out if your prostate problems may be cancer related, the doctor will recommend a PSA blood test. An elevated level of PSA, which is protein produced by the prostate cells, usually means that it could be cancer related. However having a high level of protein in the prostate does not necessarily mean prostate cancer, so this test will be used in conjunction with other prostate tests as a compass to what the problem might be.
Often times, a simple urinalysis is a great barometer to test for prostate health. The doctor will ask for a urine sample that will be examined under a high-powered microscope. Often times a chemically treated dipstick will be used to see if it changes color within the sample, which could mean some kind of bacterial infection. Traces of blood in the urine might mean an indication of kidney stones or might reveal an infection of some kind.
If the patient is suspected of having prostate cancer, the doctor will immediately order a transrectal ultrasound. This procedure entails a doctor inserting a medium-sized probe into the rectum that direct high-frequency sound waves to the prostate. These sound waves form an echo pattern that produces an image of the prostate on a television monitor. The doctor can look for any irregularities and also any bumps or tumors. If a tumor is suspected, the doctor can guide a needle-like instrument into the rectum to take a biopsy of the suspected tumor for further testing.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Once a biopsy has been confirmed to be cancerous, a doctor you will use magnetic resonance imaging, commonly known as an MRI, to determine how far the cancer has spread. MRI scans are a form of magnetic resonance imagining that uses computers to create a three dimensional image of the internal organs. This test can be very expensive but also can be very effective in determining the severity of the cancer and if it has spread to any surrounding organs.