HealthCentral.com

Dr. Dean

The Prostate Self-Exam

Posting Date: 12/15/2003

Prostate Self-Exam

Self-Exam with Partner

Male Reproductive Graphic

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers. Almost all men, by the time they reach the age of 80, will have prostate cancer, and some of the treatments are controversial.



Detecting prostate cancer, like all cancers, depends upon a combination of examination by a physician and laboratory testing. The gold standard has always been the digital-rectal examination. In this test, the physician inserts a finger into the rectum and feels the prostate for any lumps. It's amazing how accurate this is, considering that you really can't get your fingers all the way around the prostate gland.

Frequency
Many men hate this exam, and consequently don't have it often enough. Physicians often forget to do it as part of the routine physical. If you are a man over 50, ask your physician to examine your prostate gland as part of your routine visit. Many doctors feel this should be done every year.

Similarity to Breast Cancer
With breast cancer, we encourage women to examine their own breasts, not as a substitute for a doctor doing this exam, but as an interim measure. If a woman feels a breast lump between her regular examinations, then she at least has given her doctor a leg up in treating her disease.

The prostate also can be examined by the patient or his partner at six-month intervals in between the regular yearly exam. If indeed you feel a lump, you then have a six-month jump on treatment. This is not talked about a lot because many people have trouble dealing with these parts of the body.

Prostate Self-Exam

It's easy for a man to feel his own prostate gland. It's a walnut-sized organ at the base of the bladder. It can be felt with the tip of a finger inserted into the rectum. Its texture and firmness should be similar to that of the flesh between your thumb and the rest of the hand when you make a tight fist. If you feel anything that is as firm as the knuckle, then that needs to be brought to a physician's attention.