Screenings & Diagnosis

The older you get, the greater the risk of prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening once you reach these age levels or if you have symptoms:

Age 40:  If you’re African American and have a father and more than one brother who developed prostate cancer at an early age.
Age 45: If you have a father, brother or a son who developed prostate cancer at an early age.
Age 50: The chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after you turn 50. Be sure to start the conversation with your doctor about screening.

Prostate Cancer Screening

The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find it early so that it can be treated more effectively. There are two common screening methods:

  • PSA Test: This is a test to determine the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. The nurse will use a needle and syringe to draw blood from your vein. Test results are available in a few days.
    • Men with a borderline PSA level between 4 and 10 have a 1 in 4 chance of developing prostate cancer.
    • If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is more than 50 percent.
    • Some doctors may recommend a biopsy if your PSA level is 2.5, depending upon the prostate cancer risk levels associated with your age, race and family history.
  • DRE: The digital rectal exam is slightly uncomfortable but necessary. It can sometimes find cancers in men with normal PSA levels. The doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for any bumps or hard areas on the prostate that might be cancer.

Things That Can Raise Your PSA Level

  • Sex: Skip it for 48 hours before your exam. Ejaculation can cause your PSA level to rise, which can be a little disturbing when the test results come back — all because you were trying to have a little fun. Be sure to let your doctor know if you decided to take advantage of the window of opportunity your partner created to avoid any freak-out moments.
  • Cycling, spinning, horseback riding, or riding a motorcycle or ATV: Skip it for 48 hours before your exam. Some studies indicate that these kind of physical activities can put pressure on the prostate and raise PSA levels. Try running or hitting the treadmill as an alternative.
  • Prostatitis: This is an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland. You may not have any symptoms, or you may experience painful or more frequent urination, difficulty emptying the bladder, pain in the penis, testicles or pelvic area, pain during or after ejaculation, or fever or chills. Be sure to alert your doctor if you have these symptoms. You can also read more about this condition from the American Urological Association Foundation
  • Enlarged prostate: BPH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia) is a non-cancerous condition that causes urination problems in older men. It’s like having a plumbing problem. Frequent bathroom breaks, difficulty starting to urinate, dribbling, straining, decreased size and strength of the urine stream are common symptoms. You can read more about it here. Be sure to talk to your doctor as soon as you notice these problems. 
  • Medicines: Taking male hormones like testosterone, or other medicines that raise testosterone levels may cause your PSA level to rise. Be sure your doctor knows about all medicines and supplements that you’re taking.

Things That Can Lower Your PSA Level

Here are some things that can lower your PSA level even if cancer is present. Be sure to discuss them with your doctor:

  • Proscar and Propecia, the drug you take for male pattern baldness, are both used to treat an enlarged prostate.
  • Herbal mixtures
  • Aspirin
  • Cholesterol-lowering statins such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor or their generic equivalents.
  • Hydrochlorothiazide, or other thiazide diuretics, is linked to lower PSA levels.

What if my PSA Level is High?

Your primary care doctor will recommend additional tests, that would be conducted by a Bellin Health urologist, if the results of your PSA test and digital exam raise a red flag.