Open Accessibility Menu

A Doctor Answers the Top Questions About Prostate Exams

  • Posted On:
A Doctor Answers the Top Questions About Prostate Exams

Prostate exams are an essential component of men's health, yet they often raise questions and concerns. To shed some light on this important screening method (prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, aside from skin cancer), we spoke with Dr. Mark Callesen, chief medical officer of Jewish Family & Children's Service (JFCS) in Phoenix. With over 30 years of experience, Dr. Callesen provides valuable insights into the importance of prostate exams, when to consider them, and what to expect.

Q: What is a prostate exam and why is it important for men's health?

A: A prostate exam, which includes a blood test called the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, is commonly used to assess the risk of prostate cancer. Elevated PSA levels may indicate a higher risk, prompting a referral to a urologist for further evaluation.

Q: What age should men start considering getting prostate exams and are there any specific risk factors that may warrant earlier screenings?

A: While all men are at some risk of developing prostate cancer, certain factors increase the likelihood. Age is the primary risk factor, and screening exams are recommended, especially for high-risk individuals. This includes men with a positive family history of prostate cancer in a first-degree relative or those who are African American. African American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer, are more likely to die from it, and often have more advanced disease at diagnosis.

Q: Is it normal to feel apprehensive about prostate exams?

A: Feeling apprehensive about prostate exams is entirely normal and common. These exams often involve a PSA blood test, followed by a digital rectal examination (DRE) or referral to a urologist for further evaluation.

Q: Are there any preparations men should take before a prostate exam?

A: No specific preparations are needed before a prostate exam.

Q: What are the benefits and drawbacks of regular prostate exams?

A: Regular prostate exams, particularly for those at higher risk, offer the benefit of early detection and treatment. However, it is important to note that false-positive test results can occur, leading to unnecessary biopsies.

Q: What are the signs and symptoms of prostate issues?

A: Signs and symptoms of prostate issues include difficulty starting urination, weak or interrupted urine flow, frequent urination (especially at night), difficulty emptying the bladder completely, pain or burning during urination, blood in urine or semen, and painful ejaculation. It is important to consult a doctor as these symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, such as urinary tract infections that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Q: When should a specialist be consulted?

A: If an abnormality or concern is detected during a prostate exam, a referral to a specialist may be necessary for additional testing. This may include a trans-rectal ultrasound or an MRI. In some cases, a biopsy might be needed to examine prostate tissue under a microscope for the presence of cancer cells.

Q: Are genetic or lifestyle factors more influential in prostate health?

A: Genetic factors are more likely to play a significant role in increased prostate cancer risk compared to lifestyle factors or habits. Having a positive family history of prostate cancer and being of African American descent are indicators for regular examinations.

Q: What is being done to improve prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts research to enhance diagnosis, treatment and education regarding prostate cancer. The goal is to improve earlier detection and reduce mortality rates through increased awareness among the general public and medical professionals.

Q: How does JFCS contribute to prostate health?

A: At JFCS, we offer testing for elevated PSA levels, and when indicated, our staff will refer individuals to a urologist for further evaluation and treatment.