All About Your Prostate Check-Up
When should I consider a prostate check-up?
50 is the recommended age for your first check-up and subsequently every two years. However, some prostate specialists are starting to recommend having your first check aged 40.
Is there an increased risk group?
You are at increased risk of prostate cancer if:
- You are or African origin
- Your father or brother developed prostate cancer before the age of 6o
If either of these apply to you it is recommended to get checked at age 45.
Where do I go for my check-up?
Your GP. They know you already, and have access to all the tests needed.
What does a prostate check-up involve?
There are four aspects to this:
- A prostate symptom questionnaire
- Physical examination by your GP
- Urine and blood tests
- Ideally an ultrasound examination of your bladder
Prostate Symptom Questionnaire
This is a standardised questionnaire with seven questions. The answers to these questions are added up to get a total score known as the International Prostate Symptom Score, or IPSS.
There is an additional ‘quality of life’ question which is asked, but not added to the total.
Before going for a prostate check up, ideally fill in the IPPS, print it off and take it with you for your doctor. The IPSS is available here to download, or you can try the online test below:
Physical Examination By Your GP
The physical examination is a normal part of the prostate check-up. Patients are often embarrassed by the prospect of this but it is important to remember that this is part of your GP’s normal work.
What is involved?
- Your GP will carefully insert a gloved, lubricated finger into your rectum.
- This takes approximately 20 seconds and is totally painless.
- Your GP will be able to feel the size of your prostate, its consistency, and whether there is any suspicion of a cancer present.
You will also be asked to produce a fresh urine sample, which your GP can check instantly.
1 blood sample will provide results for the following:
- Kidney function – this test measures blood levels of a number of substances, principally creatinine and urea.
- PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) – this test is an important – and controversial – indicator of possible prostate problems. Further details here.
Ultrasound Examination Of Your Bladder
Bladder function can be an indicator of possible prostate problems. An enlarged prostate can prevent an individual from fully emptying their bladder. Checking bladder residual volume is increasingly becoming an essential step in the prostate check-up.
What is involved in an ultrasound examination of the bladder?
- The bladder must be emptied fully
- A jelly will be applied to the abdomen
- A probe (similar to a computer mouse) is used to painlessly image the bladder onto a screen.
The benefits of an ultrasound examination are:
- No radiation
- Immediate results
If your bladder is seen to be empty, then there is no problem. If it is not emptying, then treatment might need to be considered.
Your GP will discuss your results and treatment options (if any) at your appointment.