The first line of defense against and detection for prostate cancer is a common prostate examination. It’s the most convenient and most common method of checking on the current condition of your prostate gland. Turning your attention towards your overall health, and specifically your prostate health, is a critical factor in maintaining your health and longevity as you get older.
It is unfortunate that men’s perceptions about the discomfort associated with a prostate examination leads them to approach this with another common macho-ism and that is to disregard their own personal health. We do this because “we don’t need help.” We do this because “we can handle it.” We do this because there is always something else more pressing that needs our attention. We do this to our own detriment. Early detection increases survival rates for one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Despite this, men simply don’t take the health of their prostate seriously enough to add to the encouraging numbers. When you consider that between 70% and 80% of men will acquire prostate cancer by the time they reach the age of 80, we should be doing more for prostate cancer awareness and encouraging… no – URGING men to pay specific attention to their prostate health once they approach age 40 and definitely beyond.
Despite the overall perception by men that a digital prostate exam is painful, embarrassing, “unmanly” or some combination thereof, prostate exams are simple, quick and easy to arrange with a visit to your family doctor or urologist. The doctor, using some of the most basic tools of his/her trade; a rubber glove and lubricant for the index finger – inserts the finger into your anus little more than an inch or two. Carefully rubbing the index finger over the surface of the prostate gland (easily felt through the thin rectum walls), the doctor can detect any abnormalities that would lead to a recommendation for additional testing. These abnormalities may include:
- Abnormal texture
The duration of the exam, despite feeling like an eternity for some patients, barely takes more than a few moments and is a virtually pain-free process. Folks, this is a matter of mere seconds for an examination that could detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages and virtually assure successful treatment. Simply put, there is no excuse for not taking the digital prostate examination when the consequences for a failure to detect such a common cancer in men can lead to a debilitating lifestyle and even death if not caught before advanced stages.
So, how often should we be getting our digital prostate examinations? The following are the general guidelines for your prostate exam schedule:
- Men between the ages of their mid-20s to mid-30s should consider having a prostate exam every 2-years or so. (More if you have a family history or other risk factors for prostate cancer.)
- At and beyond the age of 40-years old, an annual digital prostate exam is recommended.
- The presence of other prostate cancer risk factors will likely prompt your physician to recommend more frequent examinations or additional testing.
Your failure to have regular, recurring prostate examinations puts you at risk for significant health problems. In patients whose prostate cancer was not detected early, problems include sexual dysfunction, reduced and painful urinary functions, and cancer which spreads to other parts of the body.
This is why it is imperative that you take the necessary fraction of one single minute every year to get your digital prostate exam. Better – talk to your friends and family about prostate cancer and the importance of getting their prostate exam. Doing so will go a long way towards maintaining a healthy, comfortable lifestyle well into your future, even when anomalies are detected. The life you save may be your own.
See also: The Prostate Self-Exam