Prostate cancer is diagnosed through a combination of blood tests, imaging scans and biopsies. Your health care team at St. Anthony's Cancer Care Center will diagnose you carefully, because precisely locating and staging the cancer leads to a more precise treatment plan. We understand that waiting is often the hardest part of the diagnosis phase. We strive to complete your testing as quickly as possible.
Diagnostic Tests for Prostate Cancer
- PSA test: PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen. In men who have prostate cancer, the level of PSA increases, so a simple blood test is one of the easiest ways to screen for cancer. Keep in mind that an elevated level of PSA is not a definitive cancer diagnosis. There are other conditions which may elevate the level as well, which is why your doctor will use this blood test in combination with other diagnostic tools.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): During a DRE, your doctor inserts a finger into your anus in order to feel the prostate. If your doctor finds that the prostate is rough and uneven, that may indicate cancer. Again, a DRE does not offer a final diagnosis. Doctors recommend that all men over the age of 50 get a DRE and PSA test annually.
- Imaging tests: Your doctor may order one of more of the following imaging tests. These are painless, non-invasive procedures that allow your doctor to get a detailed look at the inside of your body.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan uses powerful magnetic waves to show detailed, cross-sectional picture of your body.
- Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce a computerized image. Often, to screen for prostate cancer, your doctor will order a transrectal ultrasonography. A probe is inserted into your rectum in order to provide detailed pictures.
- Computed tomography (CT) scan uses high-powered X-ray technology to produce images.
During a biopsy, your doctor removes a small piece of the prostate tissue and sends it to a pathology lab for analysis. The pathologist is able to determine if the cells are malignant (cancerous). A biopsy is a more invasive procedure, but offers a definitive diagnosis. You are numbed during the biopsy so you do not feel any pain.
Using a combination of these tests, your doctor can determine if you have cancer, where the cancer is located and what stage it is in. Once you receive your final diagnosis, you are able to begin treatment for prostate cancer at St. Anthony’s Cancer Care Center.