Every year, millions of men over the age of 50 must go for a physical and a prostate exam. While it may be uncomfortable to think about, a prostate exam is an essential part of preventive care for men. It can be the key to catching prostate cancer before it spreads significantly and becomes incredibly difficult to treat.
Prostate cancer is the second-most-common cancer in American men (after skin cancer) and the second-most-deadly (after lung cancer). Prostate cancer often grows slowly, and many men who have it don’t show any symptoms until it has advanced. This is why early detection is so important. When prostate cancer is caught early, it’s much more likely to be treated effectively.
A prostate exam is a simple, quick, and painless test that can detect the early signs of cancer or other abnormalities in the prostate gland. The prostate gland is a walnut-sized organ located below the bladder that produces some of the fluid that makes up semen.
The exam consists of a doctor or healthcare professional inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate. While it might be uncomfortable for some men, it’s generally not painful.
The prostate exam is recommended for all men over 50, or men who have a family history of prostate cancer. African American men and men who’ve had a history of STDs are also at increased risk for prostate cancer.
If the exam reveals an abnormality, a doctor may recommend further testing, such as a biopsy or imaging tests like an MRI or ultrasound.
It’s important to note that while prostate cancer is a serious disease, it’s also highly treatable, especially when caught early. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
In addition to prostate cancer, the exam can also detect other conditions that can affect the prostate gland, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlarged prostate gland that can cause urinary issues, and prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate that can cause urinary problems, sexual dysfunction, and pelvic pain.
Some men may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about getting a prostate exam, but it’s important to remember that doctors perform this test all the time. It’s a routine part of preventive care, just like getting a mammogram or Pap smear is for women.
In conclusion, a prostate exam may not be anyone’s idea of a fun time, but it’s an essential part of preventive care for men over 50. Early detection of prostate cancer is vital to a successful outcome and a long, healthy life. Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare provider about scheduling a prostate exam – it could save your life.