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How is prostate cancer diagnosed?


Prostate cancer is diagnosed by a number of tests, which are described below. You may have already had some of these but you may need further tests to find out whether the cancer has spread and how aggressive it is. You may not need to have all of the tests described here, and you may not necessarily have them in this order.

PSA Test - The PSA Test is a blood test that measures the amount of a protein called prostate specific antigen (PSA) which is produced by the prostate. All men have some PSA in their blood. The level of PSA can be affected by a number of things, including age, an enlarged prostate, infection, vigorous exercise, ejaculation, and prostate cancer.

Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) - A Digital Rectal Examination (DRE) involves a doctor or nurse feeling the prostate gland through the wall of the back passage (rectum). They will wear gloves and put some gel on their finger to make it more comfortable. They are feeling for any hard or irregular areas that may be a sign of cancer.

Prostate Biopsy - During a prostate biopsy, small amounts of tissue are removed from different areas of the prostate gland. These samples of tissue are sent to the laboratory to be checked by a doctor who specialises in looking at cells under the microscope (a pathologist).

A report, called a pathology report, is sent to your doctor explaining what the pathologist has found. Some men also receive a copy of their pathology report. If cancer has been found, the pathology report will provide details, including:

  • how many samples contain cancer
  • how much cancer is in each sample, and
  • your Gleason score

You may have the following tests to find out whether the cancer is likely to have spread outside the prostate.

CT scan - A computerised tomography (CT) scan uses X-rays to take pictures of the body from different angles. This helps the specialist to see whether the cancer could have spread to the surrounding tissues.

MRI scan - Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnets rather than X-rays to create an image of your prostate and other tissues to see whether the cancer has spread.

Bone scan - A bone scan may show whether any cancer cells have spread from the prostate to the bone. A small amount of a safe radioactive dye is injected into a vein in your arm. After two to three hours, you will have a scan to find any areas where the dye has collected. This can show if prostate cancer cells have spread to your bones.

Next page Test Results


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