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How Often Should I Get a Prostate Exam?

How Often Should I Get a Prostate Exam?

Detecting Prostate Cancer Early

As men get older, their health needs change, and they need additional screenings and exams. One of the health considerations they should remember is a prostate exam. Prostate exams are essential for detecting prostate cancer early when it is most treatable. But, how often should this exam take place?

The Importance of Prostate Health

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and one in 41 men will die from prostate cancer. More than 90 percent of men aged 80 or older have an enlarged prostate.

The prostate is a small, walnut-shaped gland that is a vital part of the male reproductive system. Located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate produces seminal fluid, which helps nourish and transport sperm.

There are several risk factors for prostate cancer, including age, family history and race. African American men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer than Caucasian men. Men with a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer also are at an increased risk.

When to Start Prostate Exams

The American Cancer Society recommends that men aged 50 start prostate cancer screenings. However, African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should start screening at age 45. In general, most experts recommend getting a prostate exam every three to five years.

Your doctor will check the prostate gland for any lumps or abnormalities during a prostate exam. It's not painful, but some men may feel uncomfortable during the exam.

These are some types of prostate exams:

  • Digital Rectal Exams (DRE): During a DRE, the doctor physically examines the rectum to feel for any abnormalities in the prostate. This exam can help detect prostate cancer in its early stages
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen Tests (PSA): A PSA test measures the level of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate present in the blood. A high PSA level may be a sign of prostate cancer

If any of the above tests is abnormal, further testing may include:

  • Biopsies: A needle is used to sample tissues for cancer cells. This is typically done as an MRI-guided biopsy.
  • Imaging exams
  • Screening Tests: Screening tests can sometimes have incorrect or unclear test results, making it essential to speak with your doctor about the risks and benefits of this test. Men should talk to their doctor about how often they should get a prostate exam, depending on their health status.

Treatment Options

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer should work with their medical provider to develop a plan of care. 

There are many types of treatment available, including medication, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or active surveillance.

When selecting treatment options, there are many factors to consider, including a man’s age, health status, cancer stage and potential side effects.

Your provider can explain the benefits and risks of each option and help you determine which is best for you.

Men’s Cancer Prevention & Care at Southwest General

Men should see their doctor regularly for recommended health screenings and testing. Our Southwest General Medical Group offers primary care and specialty care to help men protect and monitor their health. To learn more about our cancer care services or to schedule an appointment, visit our website.