The PSA test is a way of checking for prostate cancer. It means having a simple blood test usually taken from the arm. The benefit of the PSA test is that it could find a prostate cancer while it’s still small. It might then be possible to treat it before it grows and causes any problems. But before you decide whether you want the test, there are a few things you should think about.
Most prostate cancers grow very slowly and don’t cause any problems, particularly in men in their 70’s or 80’s. And it’s unusual to find a prostate cancer in men under the age of fifty though it does occur. The risk is higher in people with a family history and has been shown to be higher in African Americans.
The PSA test is not a perfect test for prostate cancer. So if your PSA test isn’t normal, you’ll probably need to have another sort of test, called a biopsy, to be sure whether there’s a cancer there or not. A biopsy involves taking samples from the prostate through the back passage (bottom) which can be painful.
If you do turn out to have prostate cancer, it might be possible to treat it and even cure it. But at present doctors do not all agree that there is sufficient research evidence to conclusively show that early treatment will extend your life. Doctors don’t all agree on the best way to treat early prostate cancers and all of the main treatments for prostate cancer can cause problems, like leaking urine or problems getting an erection as can untreated prostate cancer.
When your you’re deciding whether to have the PSA test, there’s no right or wrong answer. You will need to consider conflicting view points. Some men feel that they’d rather not go through all the tests and possible treatments, particularly since most prostate cancers grow so slowly that they never cause problems. Other men would rather have the tests and any treatment to be absolutely sure they’d done all they could to prevent any problems from prostate cancer. It’s your decision. It might help to talk this over with your doctor.
Prostate Biopsies – A Guide for Patients and Carers
Prostate biopsies are indicated following the finding of a rectal examination of your prostate as well as a raised PSA blood test. (See separate sheet on PSA to find out more about this test)
What are Prostate Biopsies?
This is a procedure by which small amounts of tissue are obtained from your prostate gland to be examined under the microscope.
Why is this Required?
It is required to further confirm or exclude prostate cancer, when there is enough suspicion on prostate examination and by PSA.
What does this Test Involve?
This test involves examination of your prostate with an ultrasound probe which is inserted into your back passage. With the ultrasound guidance and using a fine needle, biopsies are taken from various areas of your prostate gland.
Is The Procedure Painful?
There should be no more than some discomfort similar to what you experienced during the prostate examination. If you do experience pain during this procedure you should inform the staff immediately.
What Happens After The Prostate Biopsies?
You will be taken back to the waiting room and encouraged to drink plenty of fluids. The following steps are taken before you are discharged home: To ensure you are able to pass urine. To make sure you are not passing heavily blood stained urine (some blood staining of the urine is very common) You will receive a course of antibiotics.
What are the Likely Problems Associated with this Procedure?
Blood in the Urine: This is common and should resolve within 24 hours. You are advised to drink extra fluids during this period. Rarely, the bleeding can become heavier if this should happen you should consult your GP.
Urinary Tract Infection: You will be given a 5-day course of antibiotic tablets to prevent this. If symptoms of infection (urinary frequency and burning of passing urine) persist, please contact your GP as you may require a longer course of antibiotics. If you feel generally unwell with flu-like symptoms, contact your GP who may refer you back to the hospital.
Difficulty in Passing Urine: If you experience difficulty in passing urine or are unable to pass urine for over 6 hours you should return to the Acute Receiving Unit at the hospital.
Blood in your Semen: This is normal but should clear up within two weeks.
Please remember the above problems are very uncommon and can be resolved quickly if they should happen. After your Prostate Biopsy Drink plenty of fluids for 48 hours, avoid strenuous activity and exercise and complete the antibiotic course. Results should be available within two weeks. You will be notified of the findings and appropriate follow up arranged.