Men must be especially aware of their risk of prostate cancer as it is the second most common type of cancer found in them, so it is crucial to get checked for it during their annual health exam. Unfortunately, it is not rare to receive a prostate cancer diagnosis, but the good news is that it is treatable when it is detected in its early stages. For this reason, men must take screening and imaging tests to catch the disease and stop it in its tracks.
Knowledge is power, and it is essential for men to understand prostate cancer, how it is treated, and the diagnostic and imaging tests used to detect its presence and severity. Here is what you need to know:
All About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland start multiplying beyond the normal count, essentially getting out of control. The gland is responsible for making some of the fluid found in semen and is located in front of the rectum and beneath the bladder. Behind the prostate gland are seminal vesicles, which produce the rest of the fluid in semen. Almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas since they start from the gland cells that create the prostate fluid it adds to semen. However, other cancers can also begin in the prostate, like neuroendocrine tumors and small cell carcinomas. For this reason, those with prostate cancer are almost guaranteed to have the adenocarcinoma type.
Most prostate cancers progress slowly, although some can rapidly grow and spread to other parts of the body. Some autopsy studies had discovered that older men who have died due to other causes also had prostate cancer, although they were unaware of it when they had passed since it didn’t affect their lives.
Screening for Prostate Cancer
Everyone who needs to get screened for prostate cancer must undergo testing even if they have never experienced symptoms or have a history of the illness. Older men are especially at risk for prostate cancer, which is why getting screened is crucial. For those not experiencing any symptoms, a prostate-specific antigen or PSA blood test will help detect the disease. The test uses PSA, a protein created by the prostate gland’s cells, and measures its concentration in the patient’s blood. The higher the level, the more likely the patient has prostate cancer.
Diagnostic Tests Used to Detect Prostate Cancer
Imaging tests can also diagnose prostate cancer, as it offers a more accurate and decisive diagnosis. Ultrasound tests use high-frequency sound waves to generate images of the patient’s internal organs, showing the doctor a clear picture of the prostate and its condition. Patients with high PSA levels or other prostate cancer symptoms are often given a transrectal ultrasound as they show the images in real-time, displaying the progression of the disease in the prostate gland.
MRIs are also one of the most common tests used to screen for prostate cancer. It is painless while offering a highly detailed view of the body’s soft tissues, offering doctors a closer look into the state of the patient’s prostate gland. MRIs use powerful magnetic fields and radio waves to produce precise pictures of the area being examined, indicating a tumor or another health issue in the prostate.
A computed tomography or CT scan deploys a series of x-rays to analyze the body’s bones and connected tissues. Unlike the MRI scan, it also shows the patient’s bones, allowing medical professionals to monitor prostate cancer progression and determine if it has spread to other areas.
Bone density scans are also helpful for monitoring the disease due to its tendency to spread to bones. This type of scan uses low-dose x-rays to create a profile of the bone’s minerals, providing vital information about the health of the patient’s bones.
Getting screened for prostate cancer should be a priority for those with the gland, as the risk increases as you get older. By understanding the nature of the disease and the tests available to diagnose and track its progression, you can seek treatment before it worsens.
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