Tests To Diagnose And Stage Prostate Cancer
Most prostate cancers are first found as a result of screening. Early prostate cancers usually dont cause symptoms, but more advanced cancers are sometimes first found because of symptoms they cause.
If prostate cancer is suspected based on results of screening tests or symptoms, tests will be needed to be sure. If youre seeing your primary care doctor, you might be referred to a urologist, a doctor who treats cancers of the genital and urinary tract, including the prostate.
The actual diagnosis of prostate cancer can only be made with a prostate biopsy .
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Diagnosis Of Prostate Cancer
Check out this factsheet for a summary of the video.
Diagnosis is the process of finding out the cause of a health problem. Diagnosing prostate cancer usually begins with a visit to your family doctor. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and do a physical exam. Based on this information, your doctor may refer you to a specialist called a urologist or order tests to check for prostate cancer or other health problems. A urologist is a doctor who specializes in treating conditions of the genital and urinary tracts, including the prostate.
The process of diagnosis may seem long and frustrating. It’s normal to worry, but try to remember that other health conditions can cause similar symptoms as prostate cancer. It’s important for the healthcare team to rule out other reasons for a health problem before making a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The following tests are usually used to rule out or diagnose prostate cancer. Many of the same tests used to diagnose cancer are used to find out the stage . Your doctor may also order other tests to check your general health and to help plan your treatment.
What Is The Chance Of A Diagnosis Of Prostate Cancer
Around 17,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in Australia. It affects mostly men in older age groups and is rare in men under 50 years of age.
The chance of developing prostate cancer is significantly higher in men who have a close relative with prostate cancer the risks are higher if the relative was diagnosed before the age of 60.
If you have a family history of prostate cancer, talk to your doctor.
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What Does A High Psa Level Mean
High PSA levels could be a sign of prostate cancer or a different condition like prostatitis or an enlarged prostate.
Other things can affect your PSA level:
- Age. Your PSA will normally go up slowly as you get older, even if you have no prostate problems.
- Medications. Some drugs may affect blood PSA levels. Tell your doctor if youâre taking dutasteride or finasteride . These drugs may falsely lower PSA levels by half of what they should be.
If your PSA level is high, your doctor may suggest that you get a prostate biopsy to test for cancer.
How Much Does The Test Cost
The price of a PSA test will vary based on where the test is conducted and whether you have health insurance. If you have health care coverage, you can reach out to your insurance provider directly to find out what a PSA test will cost under your plan. Depending on your plan, you may be responsible for out-of-pocket costs, such as copays and deductibles.
The cost of at-home PSA testing ranges from about $30 to $70.
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Talk To Your Doctor First
In the past, doctors ordered PSA tests for all men over age 50. But in recent years, experts have questioned this practice. The American Urological Association recommends that you consider a PSA test only after talking with your doctor about your risk factors. Use this fact sheet to learn the questions you should ask your doctor.
Circulating Tumor Cell Test
A circulating tumor cell test can check for blood biomarkers that show whether normal cells are transforming into cancer cells. CTC tests can help diagnose and screen patients who have a risk of developing cancer, such as a family history of the disease.
CTC tests are helpful in the early detection of cancer as well as monitoring treatment effectiveness over time. The only test currently approved for this purpose is called CellSearch CTC, which offers different prostate, colorectal, and breast cancer assays.
Psa In Other Biologic Fluids And Tissues
Concentration of PSA in human body fluids
|0.01 – 0.53
It is now clear that the term prostate-specific antigen is a misnomer: it is an antigen but is not specific to the prostate. Although present in large amounts in prostatic tissue and semen, it has been detected in other body fluids and tissues.
In women, PSA is found in female ejaculate at concentrations roughly equal to that found in male semen. Other than semen and female ejaculate, the greatest concentrations of PSA in biological fluids are detected in breast milk and amniotic fluid. Low concentrations of PSA have been identified in the urethral glands, endometrium, normal breast tissue and salivary gland tissue. PSA also is found in the serum of women with breast, lung, or uterine cancer and in some patients with renal cancer.
Tissue samples can be stained for the presence of PSA in order to determine the origin of malignant cells that have metastasized.
Imaging Tests For Prostate Cancer
Imaging tests use x-rays, magnetic fields, sound waves, or radioactive substances to create pictures of the inside of your body. One or more imaging tests might be used:
- To look for cancer in the prostate
- To help the doctor see the prostate during certain procedures
- To look for spread of prostate cancer to other parts of the body
Which tests you might need will depend on the situation. For example, a prostate biopsy is typically done with transrectal ultrasound and/or MRI to help guide the biopsy. If you are found to have prostate cancer, you might need imaging tests of other parts of your body to look for possible cancer spread.
The imaging tests used most often to look for prostate cancer spread include:
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Is The Psa Test Recommended For Prostate Cancer Screening
Beginning around 2008, as more was learned about both the benefits and harms of prostate cancer screening, a number of professional medical organizations began to caution against routine population screening with the PSA test. Most organizations recommend that individuals who are considering PSA screening first discuss the risks and benefits with their doctors.
Some organizations do recommend that men who are at higher risk of prostate cancer begin PSA screening at age 40 or 45. These include Black men, men with germline variants in BRCA2 , and men whose father or brother had prostate cancer.
In 2018, the United States Preventive Serves Task Force updated its recommendation statement for prostate cancer screening from a D to a C in men ages 55 to 69. The updated recommendation, which applies to the general population as well as those at increased risk due to race/ethnicity or family history, is as follows:
- For individuals ages 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic PSA-based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one. Before making the decision, a person should discuss the potential benefits and harms of screening with their clinician and consider these in the context of their own values and preferences.
- PSA-based screening for prostate cancer is not recommended for individuals 70 years and older.
Chances Of Developing Metastatic Prostate Cancer
About 50% of men diagnosed with local prostate cancer will get metastatic cancer during their lifetime. Finding cancer early and treating it can lower that rate.
A small percentage of men arent diagnosed with prostate cancer until it has become metastatic. Doctors can find out if its metastatic cancer when they take a small sample of the tissue and study the cells.
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Are There Risks Associated With Treatment
Treating prostate cancer also has risks. Prostate cancer is often treated by removing the prostate gland or with radiation. Both treatments cause some urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction in about a fourth of men treated. And both have some serious but rare complications, such as a heart attack or blood clots in the lungs.
How To Check For Prostate Cancer At Home
Besides a PSA blood test at home, there is no easy way to test yourself for prostate cancer at home. It is recommended to see a doctor for a digital rectal examination, as he has experience in feeling the prostate for lumps or an enlarged prostate.
How do you experience prostate pain?
Painful or burning urination. Not being able to urinate. Painful ejaculation. Frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvic or rectal area, or upper thighs.
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Can You Detect Prostate Cancer With A Blood Test
The PSA test is a blood test to help detect prostate cancer. But its not perfect and wont find all prostate cancers. The test, which can be done in a doctors office, measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. PSA is a protein made only by the prostate.
What test can be done to check for prostate cancer?
The PSA blood test is used primarily to screen for prostate cancer in men without symptoms. It is also one of the first tests done in men who have symptoms that may be caused by prostate cancer. PSA in the blood is measured in units called nanograms per milliliter .
What are the 5 warning signs of prostate cancer?
Early symptoms of prostate cancer
- Burning or pain during urination.
- Difficulty urinating or difficulty starting and stopping while urinating.
- More frequent urges to urinate at night.
- Loss of bladder control.
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in semen.
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.
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Experiments With Tissue Culture & Animal Models Of Prostate Cancer
Experiments with tissue culture and animal models of prostate cancer have revealed the mechanisms of the synthesis of lymphangiogenic growth factors in prostate cancer and their important contribution to lymphangiogenesis in prostate cancer lymph node metastasis.
Signaling pathways for VEGF-C synthesis in prostate cancer
Forensic Identification Of Semen
PSA was first identified by researchers attempting to find a substance in seminal fluid that would aid in the investigation of rape cases. PSA is now used to indicate the presence of semen in forensic serology. The semen of adult males has PSA levels far in excess of those found in other tissues therefore, a high level of PSA found in a sample is an indicator that semen may be present. Because PSA is a biomarker that is expressed independently of spermatozoa, it remains useful in identifying semen from vasectomized and azoospermic males.
PSA can also be found at low levels in other body fluids, such as urine and breast milk, thus setting a high minimum threshold of interpretation to rule out false positive results and conclusively state that semen is present. While traditional tests such as crossover electrophoresis have a sufficiently low sensitivity to detect only seminal PSA, newer diagnostics tests developed from clinical prostate cancer screening methods have lowered the threshold of detection down to 4 ng/mL. This level of antigen has been shown to be present in the peripheral blood of males with prostate cancer, and rarely in female urine samples and breast milk.
No studies have been performed to assess the PSA levels in the tissues and secretions of pre-pubescent children. Therefore, the presence of PSA from a high sensitivity test cannot conclusively identify the presence of semen, so care must be taken with the interpretation of such results.
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What Is The Best Treatment For Prostate Cancer
Depending on each case, treatment options for men with prostate cancer might include:
- Observation or Active Surveillance for Prostate Cancer.
- Surgery for Prostate Cancer.
- Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer.
- Cryotherapy for Prostate Cancer.
- Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer.
- Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer.
What’s A Raised Psa Level
The amount of PSA in your blood is measured in nanograms of PSA per millilitre of blood .
If you’re aged 50 to 69, raised PSA is 3ng/ml or higher.
A raised PSA level in your blood may be a sign of prostate cancer, but it can also be a sign of another condition that’s not cancer, such as:
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The Role Of Psa In Staging
Prostate cancer causes cells to become malignant and multiply uncontrollably. This can lead to overproduction of PSA, and higher levels of PSA in the bloodstream.
However, some men who have prostate cancer do not exhibit elevated PSA levels. And certain noncancerous conditions, like a prostate infection or benign enlargement, can also cause high PSA levels.
PSA levels are just one factor used in determining the stage of prostate cancer. Another diagnostic tool is called the Gleason scale. This rates the extent of abnormality in your prostate cells after biopsy.
At a certain point in prostate cancers late-stage progression, Gleason and PSA become less useful. When a tumor is large enough, doctors no longer need these numbers to predict its growth or malignancy.
How Soon Will Prostate Test Results Be Available
Results for simple medical tests such as some urodynamic tests, cystoscopy, and abdominal ultrasound are often available soon after the test. The results of other medical tests such as PSA blood test and prostate tissue biopsy may take several days to come back. A health care provider will talk with the patient about the results and possible treatments for the problem.
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Medical History And Physical Exam
If your doctor suspects you might have prostate cancer, you will be asked about symptoms you are having, such as any urinary or sexual problems, and how long you have had them. You might also be asked about possible risk factors, including your family history.
Your doctor will also examine you. This might include a digital rectal exam , during which the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum to feel for any bumps or hard areas on the prostate that might be cancer. If you do have cancer, the DRE can sometimes help tell if its only on one side of the prostate, if its on both sides, or if its likely to have spread beyond the prostate to nearby tissues. Your doctor may also examine other areas of your body.
After the exam, your doctor might then order some tests.
Use In Men Already Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer
The PSA test can also be useful if you have already been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- In men just diagnosed with prostate cancer, the PSA level can be used together with physical exam results and tumor grade to help decide if other tests are needed.
- The PSA level is used to help determine the stage of your cancer. This can affect your treatment options, since some treatments are not likely to be helpful if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
- PSA tests are often an important part of determining how well treatment is working, as well as in watching for a possible recurrence of the cancer after treatment .
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Getting The Results Of The Biopsy
Your biopsy samples will be sent to a lab, where they will be looked at with a microscope to see if they contain cancer cells. Getting the results usually takes at least 1 to 3 days, but it can sometimes take longer. The results might be reported as:
- Positive for cancer: Cancer cells were seen in the biopsy samples.
- Negative for cancer: No cancer cells were seen in the biopsy samples.
- Suspicious: Something abnormal was seen, but it might not be cancer.
If the biopsy is negative
If the prostate biopsy results are negative , and the chance that you have prostate cancer isnt very high based on your PSA level and other tests, you might not need any more tests, other than repeat PSA tests sometime later.
But even if many samples are taken, biopsies can still sometimes miss a cancer if none of the biopsy needles pass through it. This is known as a false-negative result. If your doctor still strongly suspects you have prostate cancer , your doctor might suggest:
- Getting other lab tests to help get a better idea of whether or not you might have prostate cancer. Examples of such tests include the Prostate Health Index , 4Kscore test, PCA3 tests , and ConfirmMDx. These tests are discussed in Whats New in Prostate Cancer Research?
- Getting a repeat prostate biopsy. This might include getting additional samples of parts of the prostate not biopsied the first time, or using imaging tests such as MRI to look more closely for abnormal areas to target.
Prostate cancer grade