Diagnosing prostate and urologic cancers

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, with almost 200,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. every year. And although bladder cancer affects women too, it occurs among men three to four times more often.

Even though a cancer diagnosis is scary, there is good news. Prostate cancer is often slow-growing, meaning it can be detected in time to successfully treat it. Bladder cancer is usually found at an early stage, making it highly treatable.

If you are not diagnosed until a later stage, we offer the latest treatments and clinical trials, even for cancer that has begun to spread beyond the prostate or bladder.

Prostate cancer screening

At The Christ Hospital Health Network, we know that early cancer detection saves lives. Because prostate cancer can be detected early, before you have symptoms, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about screening tests.

You and your doctor should discuss your risk factors for prostate cancer. These include your age, race and family history. He or she will help you decide what type of screening test may be right for you, and when you should start having them.

When should I get a prostate screening?

Most medical professionals agree that routine prostate cancer screening is not appropriate for all men. However, recommendation guidelines vary between medical organizations. 

According to the American Cancer Society, screenings should begin at:

  • Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least ten more years. 

  • Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This group includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65). 

  • Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age)

The two main types of prostate cancer screening tests your care team offers are:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE)—A digital rectal examination checks for problems of organs, such as the prostate, and other structures in the pelvis and lower. A DRE can detect conditions such as an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. During this examination, your doctor checks for abnormalities of your prostate gland. It's a simple, quick way to check the health of the prostate gland. 

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test—This test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. PSA is released into a man's blood by his prostate gland. Healthy men have low amounts of PSA in the blood. The amount of PSA in the blood normally increases as a man's prostate enlarges with age. A higher-than-normal amount of PSA may be a sign of infection, enlarged prostate, inflammation or cancer.

Schedule a primary care visit to learn if prostate cancer screening is right for you.  

Prostate and bladder cancer diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you have prostate or bladder cancer, he or she will use one or more tests to confirm a diagnosis. Tests we perform include:

  • Biopsy—a procedure that lets doctors take samples of prostate tissue or bladder cells.

  • Cystoscopy—a test that lets your doctor see inside your bladder using a special tube (cystoscope) with an attached lens.

  • Imaging tests—various radiology procedures take pictures of your prostate or bladder. These include transrectal ultrasound to diagnose prostate cancer, and intravenous pyelogram to look for bladder cancer.

  • Lab tests—urine samples examined in our laboratory check for blood, cancer cells and other substances. Our tests include urine cytology.

Next steps

If you are diagnosed with prostate or bladder cancer, your doctor will need to "stage" it (determine how advanced it is). Your treatments will depend on how slow or aggressive your cancer is, and whether it has already spread.

Learn more about prostate and urologic cancer treatment options at The Christ Hospital Health Network.