What tests are used to detect prostate cancer?


What tests are used to detect prostate cancer?

Whether you call it diagnosing or screening, in order to detect prostate cancer, there will have to be certain tests conducted for this determination.  Screening tests are used for numerous health conditions such as mammograms to detect breast cancer or colonoscopies for detecting colon cancer.  Screenings are simply a means of testing for a disease even if you have no symptoms. 

Fortunately for prostate cancer, there are several options doctor can use to make an accurate diagnosis of the disease.  However, there have been differences of opinion on what age to begin routine screening for prostate cancer.  In 2012, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised against PSA-based screenings for healthy men until the age of 50.

However, waiting to screen until age 50 will miss prostate cancer in younger men who have the disease that will be more advanced and less treatable by the time it is diagnosed.  A baseline PSA screening at age 40 is essential to catch any abnormal levels. If PSA comes back normal, then a doctor and his patient can decide to wait until age 45 to do yearly screenings after that.

Even if the PSA comes back abnormal, a man should still get a second opinion. There are many other tests that can be used in addition to the PSA for detecting prostate cancer.

What tests do doctors use for detecting prostate cancer?

There are several options a doctor can use for screening for the possibility of prostate cancer.  Even if a man exhibits no symptoms of the disease, screening is a necessary tool used to find prostate cancer.  Screening is helpful in locating prostate cancer at its earliest stage when it’s much easier to treat.

However, as noted earlier, various medical organizations don’t seem to agree on the issue of screening or its potential benefits. Some organizations recommend men consider prostate cancer screening in their 50s, while others suggest screening sooner for those who have risk factors for the disease. Regardless of the differences in opinion, discuss your particular situation and the benefits and risks of screening with your doctor. Together, you can decide whether prostate cancer screening is right for you.

Below are the screening tests used for diagnosing prostate cancer:

·      PSA Blood Test

PSA is a protein produced by the prostate gland. The test checks for the level of PSA in the blood, since that may rise in men who have prostate cancer. However, an elevated or rising PSA level alone doesn’t always mean that a man has prostate cancer. In fact, most men with a high PSA level don’t have prostate cancer. PSA levels tend to increase with age and may be higher in men with a common, noncancerous condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or another condition called prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate gland. The results of a PSA test can help a doctor to determine whether to run additional tests to check for prostate cancer.

·      Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

Most often, this test is done during an annual physical. The doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum, to check for hard or lumpy areas in the prostate. However, in most cases, the cancer causes no changes to the gland and a DRE may not be able to detect the cancer. A DRE is useful in ruling out prostate enlargement caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), as this causes the gland to feel firm and smooth.

·      PCA3 Urine Test

The PCA3 urine test (sometimes known as UPM3) is a marker for prostate cancer based on a genetic analysis of cells in the urine.  PCA3 is a gene that exists in all prostate gland cells.  It causes these cells to make small amounts of certain proteins.  Prostate cells that are cancerous make more of this protein than noncancerous prostate cells.  When this happens, the extra proteins will eventually leak into the urine.

This molecular diagnostic test detects RNA from the prostate cancer gene 3 (PCA3), which is secreted in high quantities by prostate cancer cells. The test can help differentiate prostate cancer from other causes of an elevated PSA.

Not every man is necessarily a good candidate for this test, but it may be helpful when there are mixed results from traditional prostate screening tests, such as:

·      High PSA level but negative biopsy

·      Having cancer despite low PSA levels

·      High PSA level and also having prostatitis 

·      4Kscore Blood Test

The 4Kscore blood test combines four prostate-specific kallikrein assay results with clinical information in an algorithm that calculates the individual patient’s risk for aggressive prostate cancer. This test gives a percentage score of how likely a man, who has an elevated PSA, is to have an aggressive prostate cancer. The results can help the patient and his doctor decide whether or not to do a biopsy depending on the likelihood of a high-risk or low-risk malignancy.

In conclusion

Screenings for prostate cancer can literally be a lifesaver for many men.  Men need to consider their age, family history of the disease and overall general health when making the decision for regular screenings.  Talking to their doctor about the appropriate time to begin screenings will help any man knowing he is making the best decision for his health and quality of life.