As healthcare moves more into the digital and telehealth space, and less healthcare done in offices, it’s natural to want to perform tests at home to avoid missing any big red flags. While monthly breast exams are promoted, what should men do to screen themselves for prostate cancer? Can you check for prostate cancer at home?
First, what is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men. This is the gland that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Thankfully some prostate cancers are slow growing, without causing serious harm. However, others are aggressive, so for both scenarios, identifying the cancer earlier is key.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Not everyone with prostate cancer has symptoms, so regular screening should be a part of your annual physical, starting at the age of 40-50. However, prostate symptoms should never be ignored and should be brought up to a physician.
Typical symptoms of prostate cancer, according to the Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC), include:
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Weak urinary stream
- Inability to urinate
- Interruption of urinary stream
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or ejaculate
- Bone pain in the hips, ribs or back
- Back pain
Read our guide to common pee problems that may be signs of prostate cancer if you are experiencing urination problems.
How do I screen for prostate cancer?
There are two main early stage screening methods; a digital rectal exam (part of your annual physical), and a blood test measuring PSA levels. PSA screening is regarded as the best method to screen for prostate cancer in men over 40 or those of a certain risk factor.
While men might be intimidated by a DRE, it’s a quick and safe screening technique used by a physician, and should cause no significant pain.
A Digital Rectal Exam is a simple, painless and quick procedure. A physician inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum and feels the prostate to identify if the prostate is enlarged, has lumps or is an abnormal texture compared to a healthy example.
Although this procedure is a very clear indicator of prostate health, the entire prostate can’t be examined during a DRE. This is why physicians will also take into account PSA blood work, health history, and other risk factors. Overall, it’s often difficult to detect prostate cancer early, it’s mostly found through PSA testing - so PSA screenings should be done regularly, starting at the age of 40-50.
Can I check for prostate cancer at home?
It is strongly advised under any circumstances not to self-examine for prostate cancer at home either by yourself or with a partner. Not only does it take a skilled professional to assess how the prostate feels to make an accurate determination of overall prostate health, self-examinations have the potential to cause injury.
While actually screening yourself for prostate cancer at home is ill advised, you can still monitor your risk factors for prostate cancer between yearly check-ups, like practicing a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Checking for PSA at home
It’s best to look for prostate symptoms and then screen using a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test. While there is no physical way for you to check for prostate cancer at home, there are at-home screening options for PSA. imaware™ at-home test for PSA can help screen you for prostate issues.
Besides an at-home PSA blood test, there is no easy way to test yourself for prostate cancer at home. It’s recommended to see a physician for a digital rectal exam, as they have experience feeling prostates for lumps or enlarged prostate. However, at home, you can be vigilant about maintaining a good prostate-healthy diet, monitoring and recording any symptoms, and calling your physician early if you detect any changes to your urinary or genital health.