Prostate exams: everything you need to know

A prostate exam is a procedure that looks for the presence of cancer before symptoms occur.

This makes it easier to treat it and prevent it from spreading. If you have doubts about this test, here we tell you everything you need to know.

The prostate is a glandular organ of the male reproductive system. It is shaped like a chestnut and is located below the bladder, in front of the rectum.

It could be said that it works as a “secondary bladder” that exerts pressure so that the semen is expelled through the urethra.

It also has the ability to close the passage of the bladder to prevent it from releasing its contents during intercourse. It is connected to the testicles by the vas deferens, which prevents urine from contaminating the scrotum.

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This organ is one of the most likely to be affected by cancer, and the most common among men (along with colorectal and lung).

It is characterized by slow growth, most people who suffer from it are older than 65 years. Its symptoms include:

  • Difficulty starting to urinate.
  • Frequent urination (especially at night).
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
  • Blood in the urine or semen.
  • Asymptomatic cases can also occur.
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A good way to control and prevent complications from prostate cancer is through prostate exams, tests that are performed when symptoms are not yet present.

When cancerous or abnormal tissue is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself and speak with a doctor to decide if this test is necessary.


Currently, there is no standard test for prostate cancer. Researchers are evaluating different tests to determine which ones have fewer risks and more benefits. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that there are different classes:

Physical exam and history

It consists of an examination of the body to review the general state of health and identify any signs of disease, such as nodules or other appearance that seems unusual.

Data will also be taken on health habits, as well as the history of previous illnesses and treatments.

In this category we find the rectal touch test. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel the prostate for lumps or any irregularities.

Although this may be one of the most representative images on prostate exams for the bulk of the population, in 2018, the US Preventive Services Task Force noted that it is not recommended as a screening test. According to experts, this is due to the lack of evidence on its benefits.

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Lab tests

These are medical procedures in which samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances are taken from the body.

Here is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, a blood test that measures the levels of antigen in the blood, a substance that is usually higher in men with prostate cancer.

imaging procedures

It is a technique that allows capturing images of internal areas of the body.

genetic tests

Laboratory tests examine cells or tissues to check for changes in genes or chromosomes.

These changes may indicate that the patient has a specific disease or condition or is at increased risk for it.

Here is the biopsy, a minor operation to obtain small segments of the prostate and examine them under a microscope. This option is often used to dig deeper if the PSA results were abnormal.

If the biopsy shows that there are cancer cells, the doctor will evaluate the most appropriate options for the case.

Prostate cancer treatment may include: close monitoring and follow-up visits, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, vaccine treatment, or surgery to remove the prostate.

These treatments are generally used one at a time, although in some cases they may be combined.


Another important point of the implementation of these tests is to determine if cancer deaths decrease when people undergo them.

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Remember that before undertaking any screening test, it is important to talk to your doctor or other health care provider, as each option has benefits and drawbacks.

The professionals will inform you of the occasional virtues and harms, allowing you to participate in the decision about whether the test is right for you.

Another point highlighted by specialists is about the role that couples should play. It is advised that they encourage their husbands or partners to talk with their health care provider about prostate cancer screening to make the best decision.

Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, US Preventive Services Task Force, National Cancer Institute (NCI).

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