A man who has troubling symptoms like frequent, nocturnal urination, pain or burning on urination, or blood in the urine along with symptoms of sexual dysfunction might wish to visit their doctor. The symptoms might be the result of a benign condition, or they might be signs of prostate cancer.
The first exam a physician might do to detect prostate cancer is a rectal exam. The exam is quite simple. The physician puts on a latex glove and uses a finger to examine the interior of the rectal area. The doctor might feel a lump or a growth in the area of the prostate. He might even feel the growth long before the patient has any signs or symptoms that prostate cancer is developing. With this knowledge, the doctor can order further tests to see if the lump is the result of a benign or a malignant process.
Other tests that the doctor will order can include X-rays, blood, and urine tests. Two non-invasive tests are the prostate specific antigen test or PSA test and the engrailed-2 test, also called the EN2 test. Prostate specific antigen is a glycoprotein that is found in small amounts in men with normal prostates. However, in the presence of prostate cancer or other prostate diseases, the PSA can be elevated. Doctors seem to be turning less and less to the PSA test, because many men with elevated antigen levels are then subject to procedures that they otherwise don’t need. The EN2 test is a urine test and is considered more accurate than the PSA test. It rarely shows a false positive for cancer, nor does it detect any other benign prostate disorders.
A physician can also perform a cystoscopy on a patient he believes might have prostate cancer. This is where a very thin camera tube is inserted into the urethra, which can allow the physician to see into the prostate. MRI, or Magnetic Resonance Imaging and rectal ultrasound can also be used to see if there are any abnormalities in the prostate. However, the most definitive way to detect prostate cancer is through a biopsy. During a biopsy, a small amount of the prostate tissue is removed, then examined under a microscope. A pathologist can then determine whether the prostate has cancer cells or not. A biopsy can be done through fine needle aspiration and is considered a fairly simple outpatient procedure.