Getting A Prostate Biopsy
For some men, getting a prostate biopsy might be the best option, especially if the initial PSA level is high. A biopsy is a procedure in which small samples of the prostate are removed and then looked at under a microscope. This test is the only way to know for sure if a man has prostate cancer. If prostate cancer is found on a biopsy, this test can also help tell how likely it is that the cancer will grow and spread quickly.
For more details on the prostate biopsy and how it is done, see Tests to Diagnose and Stage Prostate Cancer.
For more information about the possible results of a prostate biopsy, see the Prostate Pathology section of our website.
Psa Blood Test For Prostate Cancer
PSA is a protein found in prostate cells that helps to keep semen liquified. Most cases of prostate cancer develop in these cells, so an elevated PSA count may be a sign of prostate cancer. However, PSA results are more of an indicator than a firm diagnostic tooltheres not a certain PSA score that means a man has prostate cancer. Instead, there are various ranges that are considered average for different age groups. If the PSA score is elevated for your age, further testing may be recommended.
- Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 25 percent chance of having prostate cancer.
- Men with a PSA level higher than 10 have more than a 50 percent chance of having prostate cancer.
Not all men with high PSA levels have prostate cancer. High levels may also be caused by a urinary tract infection, prostatitis or benign prostatic hyperplasia, all of which are noncancerous conditions. Conversely, men with a low PSA level may still develop prostate cancer.
PSA tests are not an indication of how aggressive the prostate cancer may be. Many prostate cancers are slow-growing and dont require immediate treatment.
Should I Be Screened For Prostate Cancer
Since there are benefits and risks to prostate screening, you should talk with your provider to decide if screening is right for you. You and your provider should consider:
- Your age. The risk of prostate cancer increases after age 50.
- Your family health history. If members of your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be higher.
- Your race. Prostate cancer is more common in African Americans. They also have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer at a younger age and having more serious disease.
- Your general health. Are you well enough to have treatment for prostate cancer if it’s found?
- What you prefer. How do you feel about the possible benefits and harms of screening, diagnosis, and treatment?
NIH: National Cancer Institute
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Finding Out If The Cancer Has Spread
To find out if cancer has spread outside of the prostate, doctors may perform the imaging tests listed below. Doctors are able to estimate the risk of spread, called metastasis, based on PSA levels, tumor grade, and other factors, but an imaging test can confirm and provide information about the cancers location.
Imaging tests may not always be needed. A CT scan or bone scan may not be necessary for those with no symptoms and low-risk, early-stage prostate cancer, as determined with information from the PSA test and biopsy. Learn more about when these tests are recommended to find out if the cancer has spread.
For people with advanced prostate cancer, ASCO recommends that 1 or more of the imaging tests below be done to provide more information about the disease and help plan the best treatment. This includes when there is a newly diagnosed, high-risk cancer if metastasis is suspected or confirmed if the cancer has returned following treatment or when the cancer grows during the treatment period. Learn more about this guideline on the ASCO website.
Magnetic resonance imaging . An MRI scan uses magnetic fields, not x-rays, to produce detailed images of the body. An MRI can be used to measure the tumors size, and a scan can focus specifically on the area of the prostate or on the whole body. A special dye called contrast medium is given before the scan to create a clearer picture, which is injected into a patients vein.
Advanced Genomic Testing For Prostate Cancer
The most common lab test for prostate cancer is advanced genomic testing, which examines a tumor to look for DNA alterations that may be driving the growth of the cancer. By identifying the mutations that occur in a cancer cells genome, doctors may get a clearer picture of the tumors behavior and be able to tailor a patients treatment based on the findings.
Expert cancer care
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What Are Some Of The Limitations And Potential Harms Of The Psa Test For Prostate Cancer Screening
Detecting prostate cancer early may not reduce the chance of dying from prostate cancer. When used in screening, the PSA test can help detect small tumors. Having a small tumor found and treated may not, however, reduce the chance of dying from prostate cancer. That is because many tumors found through PSA testing grow so slowly that they are unlikely to be life threatening. Detecting such tumors is called overdiagnosis, and treating them is called overtreatment.
Overtreatment exposes a person unnecessarily to the potential complications associated with prostate surgery and radiation therapy. These include urinary , gastrointestinal , and sexual side effects .
In addition, finding cancer early may not help someone who has a fast-growing or aggressive prostate tumor that may have spread to other parts of the body before being detected.
The PSA test may give false-positive results. A false-positive test result occurs when the PSA level is elevated but no cancer is actually present. A false-positive test result may create anxiety and lead to additional medical procedures, such as a prostate biopsy, that can be harmful. Possible side effects of biopsies include serious infections, pain, and bleeding.
False-positive test results are common with PSA screening only about 25% of people who have a prostate biopsy due to an elevated PSA level are found to have prostate cancer when a biopsy is done .
Characteristics Of Prostate Cancer
Ninety-five percent of prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas. In approximately 4% of men with prostate cancer, the neoplasm has transitional cell morphology and is thought to arise from the urothelial lining of the prostatic urethra.
In rare cases, the tumor has a neuroendocrine morphology in such instances the neoplasm is believed to have arisen from the neuroendocrine stem cells that are normally present in the prostate or from aberrant differentiation programs during cell transformation.
Seventy percent of prostate cancers arise in the peripheral zone, 15-20% arise in the central zone, and 10-15% arise in the transition zone.
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The Role Of Psa In Choosing The Best Treatment
If you have received a diagnosis of prostate cancer, your PSA levels can be used along with the results of other tests and physical exams and your tumors Gleason score to help determine which tests are needed for further evaluation and to decide on the best treatment plan. After treatment has begun, your PSA and other tests will be used to determine how well the treatment is working: The more successful the therapy, the lower the PSA.
Screening For Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is typically treatable if caught early. More than 90 percent of prostate cancers are found when the disease is in the beginning stages, confined to the prostate and nearby organs.
Unlike screenings for breast cancer and colon cancer, there are no universal screening guidelines for prostate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men age 55 to 69 weigh the benefits and risks before deciding whether they should undergo screening, which is typically performed with a blood test that measures levels of a protein called prostate-specific antigen .
However, men in high-risk groupssuch as those who are of African-American descent and/or have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65should consider speaking with their doctor about starting screenings at an earlier age.
Men older than 70 shouldnt be routinely screened for prostate cancer, according to the USPSTF.
Regardless of age or risk factors, men should get checked if they suddenly experience issues with urination, erectile dysfunction or unexplained pain.
The USPSTF suggests that, before deciding on a screening, men should seek expert advice about the benefits and harms of screening. Risks may include:
- False positives
- Complications and side effects from biopsies to confirm a diagnosis
- The possibility that a prostate cancer diagnosis wont extend lifespan or improve quality of life
|Consider a biopsy or additional testing|
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If Screening Test Results Arent Normal
If you are screened for prostate cancer and your initial blood PSA level is higher than normal, it doesnt always mean that you have prostate cancer. Many men with higher than normal PSA levels do not have cancer. Still, further testing will be needed to help find out what is going on. Your doctor may advise one of these options:
- Waiting a while and having a second PSA test
- Getting another type of test to get a better idea of if you might have cancer
- Getting a prostate biopsy to find out if you have cancer
Its important to discuss your options, including their possible pros and cons, with your doctor to help you choose one you are comfortable with. Factors that might affect which option is best for you include:
- Your age and overall health
- The likelihood that you have prostate cancer
- Your own comfort level with waiting or getting further tests
If your initial PSA test was ordered by your primary care provider, you may be referred to a urologist for this discussion or for further testing.
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
If you have prostate cancer, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- Why did I get prostate cancer?
- What is my Gleason score? What is my Grade Group? What do these numbers mean for me?
- Has the cancer spread outside of the prostate gland?
- What is the best treatment for the stage of prostate cancer I have?
- If I choose active surveillance, what can I expect? What signs of cancer should I look out for?
- What are the treatment risks and side effects?
- Is my family at risk for developing prostate cancer? If so, should we get genetic tests?
- Am I at risk for other types of cancer?
- What type of follow-up care do I need after treatment?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Prostate cancer is a common cancer that affects males. Most prostate cancers grow slowly and remain in the prostate gland. For a small number, the disease can be aggressive and spread quickly to other parts of the body. Men with slow-growing prostate cancers may choose active surveillance. With this approach, you can postpone, and sometimes completely forego, treatments. Your healthcare provider can discuss the best treatment option for you based on your Gleason score and Group Grade.
Recommended Reading: Nccn Guidelines Prostate Cancer 2021
A Note On Suspicious Results
A suspicious result indicates that the biopsy sample contained some abnormalities but no cancer was found. There are a couple of potential explanations for a suspicious prostate biopsy result, including:
- Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia refers to changes within prostate cells that are abnormal, but not indicative of cancer. This condition is low-grade or high-grade, depending on how abnormal the cells are. Low-grade PIN is very common and isn’t associated with prostate cancer. High-grade PIN, however, is associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer. If you have high-grade PIN after a prostate biopsy, your doctor may recommend that biomarker tests be performed on the sample to learn more about the cells. Alternatively, another prostate biopsy may be suggested.
- Atypical small acinar proliferation indicates that the biopsy sample contains some cells that appear to be cancerous, but not enough to confirm the diagnosis. In most cases, this finding suggests that another prostate biopsy is needed.
- Proliferative inflammatory atrophy describes a prostate biopsy that reveals inflammation in the prostate and abnormally small prostate cells. While these cells arent cancerous, having PIA may be associated with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
How Are Prostate Problems Diagnosed
To diagnose prostate problems, the health care provider will perform a digital rectal exam . The health care provider will also ask the patient
- when the problem began and how often it occurs
- what symptoms are present
- whether he has a history of recurrent urinary tract infections
- what medications he takes, both prescription and those bought over the counter
- the amount of fluid he typically drinks each day
- whether he consumes caffeine and alcohol
- about his general medical history, including any major illnesses or surgeries
Answers to these questions will help the health care provider identify the problem or determine what medical tests are needed. Diagnosing BPH may require a series of medical exams and tests.
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What Is The Prognosis For People Who Have Prostate Cancer
Because prostate cancer tends to grow slowly, most men die from something other than the disease. Early detection is key to better outcomes. Almost all men 97% to 98% diagnosed with localized cancer that hasnt spread outside of the prostate live at least five years after diagnosis. When metastatic cancer has spread outside of the gland, one-third of men continue to survive after five years.
What Is Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer screening looks for signs of cancer in the prostate. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. It lies just below the bladder. It makes fluid that is part of semen.
Prostate cancer is most common in people over age 50. It usually grows slowly and doesn’t cause health problems. In fact, it’s possible to live a long life with prostate cancer and never know you have it. But in certain cases, prostate cancer may spread to other parts of the body and can be very serious.
The goal of prostate cancer screening is to find prostate cancers that may be more likely to spread so they can be treated early.
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Use In Men Who Might Have Prostate Cancer
The PSA blood test is used mainly to screen for prostate cancer in men without symptoms. Its also one of the first tests done in men who have symptoms that might be caused by prostate cancer.
PSA in the blood is measured in units called nanograms per milliliter . The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level goes up, but there is no set cutoff point that can tell for sure if a man does or doesnt have prostate cancer. Many doctors use a PSA cutoff point of 4 ng/mL or higher when deciding if a man might need further testing, while others might recommend it starting at a lower level, such as 2.5 or 3.
- Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 ng/mL of blood. Still, a level below 4 is not a guarantee that a man doesnt have cancer.
- Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 have about a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer.
- If the PSA is more than 10, the chance of having prostate cancer is over 50%.
If your PSA level is high, you might need further tests to look for prostate cancer.
To learn more about how the PSA test is used to look for cancer, including factors that can affect PSA levels, special types of PSA tests, and what the next steps might be if you have an abnormal PSA level, see Screening Tests for Prostate Cancer.
What Is Done If A Screening Test Shows An Elevated Psa Level
If someone who has no symptoms of prostate cancer chooses to undergo prostate cancer screening and is found to have an elevated PSA level, the doctor may recommend another PSA test to confirm the original finding. If the PSA level is still high, the doctor may recommend that the person continue with PSA tests and digital rectal exams at regular intervals to watch for any changes over time .
If the PSA level continues to rise or a suspicious lump is detected during a DRE, the doctor may recommend additional tests to determine the nature of the problem. These may include imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging or high-resolution micro-ultrasound.
Alternatively, the doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy. During this procedure, multiple samples of prostate tissue are collected by inserting hollow needles into the prostate and then withdrawing them. The biopsy needle may be inserted through the wall of the rectum or through the perineum . A pathologist then examines the collected tissue under a microscope. Although both biopsy techniques are guided by ultrasound imaging so the doctor can view the prostate during the biopsy procedure, ultrasound cannot be used alone to diagnose prostate cancer. An MRI-guided biopsy may be performed for patients with suspicious areas seen on MRI.
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What Are The Prostate Cancer Symptoms I Need To Look Out For
In its early stages, prostate cancer may not show any symptoms. Symptoms of early prostate cancer can include:
- difficulty passing urine
- a slow, interrupted flow of urine
- frequent passing of urine, including at night
Symptoms associated with advanced prostate cancer include:
- blood in urine
- pain during urination
- lower back or pelvic pain.
These symptoms are also found in men who may have benign prostatic hyperplasia , a common, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.
If you experience these symptoms, visit your doctor.