Prostate Cancer

Causes & symptoms | The Treatment | Questions

The Diagnosis
Preliminary Tests
The first two tests for diagnosing cancer of the prostate are digital rectal examination and a PSA blood test.

Digital rectal examination (DRE)
As the rectum (back passage) is so close to the prostate gland, your doctor can feel any abnormalities in the prostate by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum.
PSA Test
A sample of blood is taken to check for a substance called PSA (prostate specific in antigen). PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and a small amount is normally found in the blood. Men with cancer of the prostate tend to have more PSA in their blood.
Pain on passing urine
Uncommonly, blood in the urine
Pain in the bones (if the cancer has spread to the bones)

If your PSA level is raised, or if your GP feels any abnormalities during the DRE, he or she will refer you to hospital for further tests.

Further Tests

Trans-rectal ultrasound scan
Ultrasound scans use sound waves to build up a picture of the inside of the body.
If the initial tests (rectal examination, PSA or ultrasound) show the possibility of cancer, you may be asked to have a biopsy, in which a sample of cells is taken from the prostate to be looked at under a microscope.
Isotope bone scan
A very small amount of mildly radioactive liquid is injected into a vein, usually in your arm. A scan is then taken of the whole body. Abnormal bone absorbs more of the radioactive substance than normal bone and shows up on the scan as highlighted
CT scan (CAT scan)
A CT scan takes a number of pictures of an area of the body. These are fed into a the computer which shows detailed pictures of the inside of the body. A CT scan may show if cancer has spread beyond the prostate to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI or NMR scan)
This test is similar to a CT scan but uses magnetism instead of X-rays to build up cross- sectional pictures of your body.
In this procedure a thin, flexible tube containing a miniature telescope is passed into the urethra and bladder. The inner lining of the urethra and bladder can be examined.