What Every Man Needs to Know About Prostate Examination and Diagnosis

Prostate cancer is a fairly serious blip on the male health radar as the third most common cancer in men over 70. Prostate cancer – and other prostate issues – can cause considerable discomfort, pain and even death, if they are left undiagnosed and untreated.

I’ll be honest with you: a prostate exam is no fun. No guy
looks forward dropping trou for the annual check-up; but if you’re
smart, you’ll bite the bullet and go anyway. Regular screenings can not
only save you a lot of pain and discomfort – they may just save your

The prostate gland is a doughnut-shaped organ that is part of
the male reproductive system. A healthy prostate in a
younger man is only about the size of a walnut. The prostate sits just
under the bladder and is wrapped around the beginning of the urethra. It
is surrounded by nerves that control erections and its primary function
is to produce a liquid that enriches and protects sperm.

Unfortunately, as guys get older this little organ tends to act
up. At times, some of the symptoms are simply a sign of aging; however,
in many cases prostate trouble is an indication of a more serious
problem. Prostate cancer is a primary concern, but other prostate
disorders can be just as uncomfortable and a serious concern for male

So if you are experiencing symptoms like difficulty or
discomfort while urinating, reduced ability to get an erection, blood in
your urine or semen, or painful ejaculation, it’s important to have
your prostate checked out. Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms,
it’s still wise to be screened from time to time, as you can pre-empt
and prevent problems before they crop up.

A prostate exam can be done fairly quickly and easily by your
doctor. It might be a little awkward and uncomfortable, but it should be
pain-free and over in just a few minutes.

Many guys who go in for their first prostate exam don’t realize
that it involves the doctor inserting a finger into the anus to examine
the prostate gland, so your doctor will likely discuss the procedure
with you before getting started. He will answer any questions you might
have and he’ll make sure you understand what’s going to happen

Once his finger is inserted, the doctor will examine the rectal
walls, feeling for the pelvic structure along the left, right, and
posterior sides. Finally, he will examine the prostate gland, which is
located on the anterior rectal wall. He will examine the surface of the
gland, taking note of its size, consistency and shape. He will check the
lobes as well as the gap that separates the two lobes. He will ask if
you feel any tenderness or pain when he touches various parts of the

Finally, the doctor will remove his finger, and congrats! Your
DRE (digital-rectal examination) is complete. Once he has removed his
hand, he may examine the fecal matter on the glove, possibly
transferring some to a lab slide for further examination if

At this point, sometimes your doctor will also do a PSA test.
He may choose to do this if he notices any irregularities, or simply for
a more thorough screening. This is a simple blood test that measures
your levels of PSA (or Prostate Specific Antigen), which is a protein
made by the prostate gland.

Well, you’re off to a good start. Simply knowing what to expect
can help speed the process along, minimizing any potential awkwardness
or discomfort for you. Remember, as uncomfortable as you might be, the
doctor is a professional and he very likely does prostate exams on a
daily basis. Relaxing and discussing the process openly with your doctor
can take a lot of the discomfort out of the procedure.

Other than that, there’s not much else you need to do to
prepare. If you have hemorrhoids, however, you may want to let your
doctor know so that he can try not to bother them. Just be prepared that
there may be a little discomfort if hemorrhoids or anal fissures are
present, and there may be a little bleeding after your exam. This is not
a cause for alarm, however, and will clear up fairly quickly.

Once your examination is complete, your doctor will explain his
findings. If your DRE (Digital-Rectal Examination) findings are normal,
that means all’s well, and you won’t need any further tests until your
next scheduled prostate exam (usually an annual procedure).

If the doctor does find some abnormalities, however, he might
suggest a PSA test at this point. Otherwise, he might schedule a
follow-up visit a few months down the line. At your next exam he will
check to see if anything has changed or if the concerns have cleared up
on their own.

If your PSA levels are high and the doctor finds abnormalities
on your prostate, the doctor will then recommend further testing,
including a prostate ultrasound and/or biopsy. This will give him a
better idea of where the problem lies and how to remedy it.

Remember though, even if the doctor does find that some things
are a bit abnormal, that doesn’t immediately mean you have prostate
cancer. There are other conditions – completely benign ones – that can
cause similar results.

Whatever your results though, regular screenings ensure that
problems are caught quickly. Catching a prostate problem right at the
start, means that it can be treated and cleared up with far less

So men, don’t wait around till you run into trouble. A little
momentary discomfort is a worthwhile trade for a long, happy, healthy
life surrounded by your family and friends. Do yourself a favor and get
your prostate checked out.