When did you last have your prostate checked?

Posted on 30 September 2020

Your best defence against prostate cancer is to detect it early. Don’t delay routine screening tests, such as a Prostate-specific Antigen (PSA) blood test.

One of the concerns about prostate cancer is that there are no early warning signs. However, later signs will include blood in the urine, more difficulty during urination and pelvic pain or backache from metastatic disease (when the cancer spreads to another site).

Delaying or postponing routine screening tests, such as the PSA, can delay diagnosis, treatment and recovery from prostate cancer. The reality is that prostate cancer is an extremely curable disease if it’s caught in the early stages.

‘Treatment could take the form of radiation, surgery or medication, depending on the specific type and degree of spread of the cancer. After the initial diagnosis of prostate cancer, further tests such as scans will need to be performed to guide the treatment decisions,’ says Dr Rupert Rencken, a urologist at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg. ‘About 90% of diagnosis of all early prostate cancers will occur with the help of a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test that measures the level of a specific protein in your blood. PSA is produced only by the prostate and higher than normal blood levels mean that something is wrong in the prostate.’

However, the PSA test is not only a test for prostate cancer: other prostate problems such as swelling or infection can also push the blood PSA level higher. If a suspiciously high PSA level is found, your urologist could perform an ultrasound scan of the bladder and prostate, along with special urine tests, to evaluate the prostate further.

Dr Andre Dreyer, an oncologist at Mediclinic Panorama and Cancercare Panorama Oncology Centre, says that to screen for prostate cancer, men should have annual PSA tests and digital rectal examinations from the age of 50, unless family history suggests earlier screening is needed.

‘It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood, and the amount rises slightly as you get older and your prostate gets bigger,’ Dr Dreyer explains. ‘A raised PSA level may suggest you have a problem with your prostate, but it doesn’t necessarily signal cancer.’

Because 10% of prostate cancer patients don’t have raised PSA levels, it’s vital to have regular digital rectal examinations too, as blood tests alone might not detect the cancer, he adds.

‘When treating early cases of prostate cancer, the cure rate is 90%. In locally advanced cases, the cure rate is 75%. When prostate cancer is advanced, treatment focuses on improving the patient’s quality of life and may entail blocking hormones, chemotherapy and sometimes radiation.’

Mediclinic hospitals are ready to help you and all Mediclinic staff have been trained in infection prevention and control and precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19. They’re also equipped with the required personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect all against infection.

Published in Cancer

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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