Deciding to get tested is a personal decision made after a consultation with a doctor. Some important factors to consider are your age, race, family history, and history of exposure (to Agent Orange or other defoliants or pesticides). Visit our Am I at Risk? page to learn more about check out our recommended age and testing guidelines, which are based on the NCCN provided recommendations.
All men are at risk of prostate cancer, so it is important to talk with your doctor to make an informed decision. Detecting prostate cancer early gives you the best chance of living longer. In fact, when it is caught early, the 5-year survival rate is over 99 percent.
How do I get tested?
A general practitioner or an urologist can perform a full prostate cancer exam. This would usually include a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam, also called a DRE.
A Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions.
A Digital Rectal Exam is a test that is done when a doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
Talk to your general doctor or urologist about receiving a prostate exam. If you do not have a doctor, do not have insurance, and cannot afford a test, find out what free screenings are available in your area on our Free Testing Map. If you do not see a free screening in your area, check back in the fall. Many screenings occur in September, during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
What if my test results are abnormal?
If the results of early detection tests like the PSA screening or the digital rectal exam suggest that you might have prostate cancer, your doctor will conduct further testing. The PSA may be repeated, or you may be sent to a specialist for more tests such as a transrectal ultrasound and a prostate biopsy.
In a prostate biopsy, a tissue sample is taken from your prostate. Cancer can only be diagnosed with a tissue sample.
Recent research has yielded additional tests that – in addition to the PSA and subsequent DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) and Biopsy – that can give a doctor more information on to determine the probability of both finding cancer during a biopsy and determining how aggressive that cancer is likely to be. Read more on those tests.
What if I am diagnosed with prostate cancer?
Many people have been where you are standing. Don’t lose hope. More than 2.9 million American men have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are alive today.
The first thing you should consider doing is to find out about the specifics of your cancer. You should know your stage (location and extent of the tumor) and grade (also known as Gleason score, a measure of the tumor’s aggressiveness).
From there you can find out what treatment options you want to pursue, if any. Talk to your doctors. Choose a healthcare team of different specialists, or consult a second opinion. You can also do your own research, or talk to men who have been in your position. Many of our advocates are patients and survivors; hear their stories at the video library. Or head to the rest of our website to start some research.
Determining who needs treatment for prostate cancer has evolved with new options to diagnose aggressive vs. indolent disease. Check out our infographic with more information on what genomic and advanced tests are available based on a man’s individual cancer.