In its early stages the disease may not produce significant or obvious symptoms making diagnosis and early intervention difficult in some cases.
A doctor will usually do a blood test and/or physical examination to check the health of the prostate.
The most common methods used to detect warning signs associated with prostate cancer are the PSA test (prostate-specific antigen test) and the DRE (digital rectal examination).
Blood Test (PSA Test): Found in the blood, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the amount of the PSA protein in a man’s blood sample. Once a blood sample is taken it is sent to the laboratory for testing. The higher the PSA level, the more chance that prostate cancer is present.
Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): Where the doctor examines the prostate for any irregularities in shape and size.
If your tests show you may be at risk of prostate cancer, the next step is a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way a firm diagnosis of prostate cancer can be made. A urologist removes small samples of tissue from your prostate, using very thin, hollow needles guided by an ultrasound. The prostate is either accessed through the rectum (transrectal) or the perineum (transperineal), which is the area between the anus and the scrotum. A biopsy is usually done as an out-patient procedure and the doctor will likely advise a course of antibiotics afterwards to reduce the chance of infection. The tissue is sent to a pathologist to identify whether the cells are malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).