Make Sure to Test Your Prostate
As we work to study cancer and try to educate about the different kinds of cancer, as well as how these cancers affect the body, discussion about prostate cancer has grown. The mere mention of cancer tends to bring up images of situations that are often life-threatening, but as it turns out, prostate cancer is one of the few kinds where doctors need to balance the need to test your prostate with situations where it’s not necessary. While you have every right to be worried about prostate cancer, knowing some facts about it will help you to understand when the time is right to test your prostate.
It’s a Matter of Time
With prostate cancer, timing seems to be everything. It affects more men over age 50 than any others, which is why doctors recommend this as the magic age when you start to test your prostate regularly. But prostate cancer is a slow-moving disease, and one of the big balancing acts among doctors is whether or not to work to rid the body of cancer when the treatment may in fact shorten life expectancy. It moves so slowly that many men who have prostate cancer never have the disease develop to where they show symptoms from it. Because of this, the older the individual is, the less likely doctors are to suggest treatment. Men over the age of 75 in particular often do not test their prostates anymore because it’s more likely that they will die of other things before prostate cancer is advanced enough to kill.
There are two tests for prostate cancer that are common today, the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test. The DRE is just what it sounds like, a test for your prostate that involves inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum in order to check for lumps. If you’re over the age of 50, this test might be part of your annual exam. While this particular prostate test isn’t very pleasant, it can catch the most advanced and life-threatening cancers.
The PSA test, in contrast, can alert physicians to prostate cancer well before the advanced stages. The advantage to this prostate test is that it can also detect other conditions, such as infections of the prostate, that also have adverse effects on your health. The drawback to the PSA test, from a physician’s point of view, is because it detects problems at such an early stage, some patients will demand treatment for prostate cancer before the benefits outweigh the health risks.
Just as mentioned before, prostate cancer is a slow-moving disease, so be sure to talk with your physician about the risks and benefits of the different kinds of prostate tests as well as what he recommends in the event that prostate cancer is found. With a little care and sound medical advice, both you and your prostate will remain healthy for years to come.