Screening for prostate cancer
Men with urinary tract symptoms should not ignore this problem, especially if they are over 65 years old. However, there are many cases of asymptomatic prostate cancer, which means that it is not wise to wait for prostatic symptoms to show up. That’s why prostate cancer screening is essential in senior men, and even though there are many diagnostic tools, in this article, we will highlight the importance of PSA levels and digital rectal exams.
A digital rectal examination is an important part of the physical examination that evaluates prostate health directly by feeling the gland through the rectum. The prostate is directly located in front of the rectum, and there’s no tissue in-between. Thus, with this method, doctors can evaluate the texture of the prostate, which is not possible with imaging techniques such as MRI and ultrasound. Therefore, if someone asks whether or not it is possible to disregard digital rectal examination and replace this screening method with modern techniques, the answer will be no. The digital rectal exam should be performed in men between 50 and 65 years of age and may be performed in younger and older men according to their symptoms, risk factors, and their concerns about prostate cancer.
On the other hand, we have a particular blood test to screen for prostate cancer called PSA, which stands for prostate-specific antigen. This is a special protein synthesized by the prostate, and it is typically evaluated in men over 50 years old and men with risk of prostate cancer. The upper limit of PSA is 4 ng/mL, but patients may have higher readings depending on their age. PSA levels may go higher due to recent sexual activity, urinary infections, prostatic infections (prostatitis), benign prostatic hyperplasia, and after performing a digital exam.
It is important to note that PSA testing is not the ultimate diagnostic tool for prostate cancer. Patients with a high PSA might undergo unnecessary surgery and aggressive treatment options in a false alarm. Similarly, patients may develop an aggressive and unexpected tumor sometimes, which is why screening for prostate cancer is not limited to only one blood test every year.