Diagnosing and Detecting Prostate Cancer

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test

Prostate Cancer can often be found early by testing the (PSA) prostate-specific antigen in the blood and by having a (DRE) digital rectal exam by a doctor. Most healthy men have a PSA level under 4ng/mL of blood. There are other factors that can cause a PSA level to go up. DRE is less effective than a PSA blood test in finding prostate cancer but it can sometimes find cancers in men with normal PSA levels.

If symptoms or test results suggest you might have prostate cancer then your doctor will do a prostate biopsy.

Prostate Biopsy

A biopsy is done by placing a small ultrasound probe in the rectum (TRUS transrectal ultrasound). Guided by the ultrasound the doctor uses a thin needle to take a tissue sample of the prostate gland. The test is very quick and does not cause much discomfort. The test is usually done in the doctor's office and takes about 15 minutes.

This test is called a "core needle biopsy" and is sent to a lab to see if it contains cancer cells.  If cancer is present the sample will be given a Gleason score.  A low number means the sample cells closely resemble normal prostate cells but a high number means the cells look less normal and are likely to grow more quickly.

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