Prostate Cancer - Diagnosis

The first step in diagnosing prostate cancer is usually a digital rectal examination. In a digital rectal examination, a doctor places a gloved, lubricated finger into the patient's rectum. The doctor feels for lumps in the prostate.

If the doctor detects a lump, additional tests may be necessary. The first test may be a blood test. The purpose of a blood test is to search for a particular chemical associated with prostate cancer. This chemical is called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA occurs naturally in the blood, but it occurs in much higher amounts if prostate cancer is present.

A second test that may be used is a transrectal (across the rectum) ultrasound. In this test, sound waves are bounced off the prostate gland. The reflected waves form a picture of the prostate. The picture shows the presence of any tumors.

A prostate biopsy may also be necessary. A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is removed. The sample is then studied under the microscope. Cancer cells can be detected under the microscope because of their distinctive appearance.

Other tests may be conducted to see if the cancer has begun to spread. For example, a chest X ray will show if cancer has spread to the lungs. A bone scan may be used to check whether the cancer has spread to the bone.

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