Prostate cancer detection

Prostate cancer screening is done two ways:

a digital rectal exam

During a digital rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved finger with lubricant on it into the rectum. He or she feels the prostate through the rectal wall to check for hard or lumpy areas.

a blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

A lab measures the level of PSA in a blood sample. The PSA level may rise in men who have prostate cancer, enlarged prostate or a prostate infection.


If a suspicious area is found, or if your PSA level is elevated,your doctor may perform more tests such as ultrasound, and/or lab tests.The doctor may also choose to perform a biopsy, which is the removal of small pieces of tissue for lab tests.

How often should I have a prostate cancer detection test?

The earlier cancer is found, the more successful cancer treatment can be. This makes prostate cancer detection or screening important to a man's general health.

If your father or brother has had prostate cancer or if you are African American, we recommend starting annual prostate cancer screenings at age 40. For others, annual screening should begin at 45 to 50 years.

Contact your primary care provider about when you should be screened for prostate cancer.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prostate Cancer, can-ahc-14188 (3/02)
Reviewed By: Lisa Hiedeman, RN coordinator, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Prostate Cancer Program and Heather Christie, RN coordinator, Virginia Piper Cancer Institute Prostate Cancer Program
First Published: 03/01/2009
Last Reviewed: 09/22/2009