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Prostate Cancer

Diagnosis and Screening for Prostate Cancer

To detect and diagnose prostate cancer, our doctors perform thorough exams. They also ask questions about your past health and any symptoms you may have noticed. The goal of prostate cancer screening is to locate and diagnose cancer early, which improves the chances for successful treatment.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

The most common ways to screen for prostate cancer are a physical evaluation and checking your PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels:

  • Digital rectal exam is when your doctor puts a gloved, lubricated finger in your rectum to feel your prostate. This is the most common way to check for prostate cancer.

  • PSA blood test that shows higher than normal PSA levels may mean you have prostate cancer. High PSA levels can also point to an enlarged or infected prostate gland.

Several noncancerous conditions can cause an enlarged prostate and/or elevated PSA levels. PSA levels can also vary from person to person and change with age. Your doctor will recommend additional testing before he or she can make an accurate prostate cancer diagnosis.

If your PSA is high, or if your doctor finds anything during the rectal exam, he or she may schedule a biopsy. During a biopsy, your doctor takes a sample of tissue from your prostate gland and sends it to a lab for testing. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose prostate cancer. However, other tests may be used prior to a biopsy to better understand your risk of prostate cancer. These tests can include advanced blood tests and imaging, such as an MRI.

If your are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will then evaluate the extent of your cancer based on your examination findings, your PSA and the grade of your cancer. This information will guide your prostate cancer treatment plan.

The grade of cancer evaluates how healthy the tissue looks based on samples taken from different areas. Less aggressive tumors tend to look more like healthy tissue and receive a low score. Pathologists assign a higher score to cancer cells that look more aggressive. The scoring system used is a scale from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most aggressive.

Doctors also stage prostate cancer according to a system that’s more complex than other types of cancer staging. Your doctor will consider several factors to determine the stage of your prostate cancer:

  • Size of your primary tumor
  • Whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • Whether the cancer has spread to other areas of the body or different organs
  • Your PSA level
  • Your Gleason score
image of Prostate Cancer Survivor Bob Honse

Frightening diagnosis

Bob Honse’s wife said her husband was 1 in a million. But as it turned out, he was 1 in 9. Bob was diagnosed with fast-growing, aggressive prostate cancer.
Bob's story

Start your path today.

Your journey to health starts here. Call 913-588-1227 or request an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

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