Routine prostate cancer screening typically involves an invasive rectal exam. According to prostate.net, men 50 and above are urged to get them done annually, while it’s suggested that those who are at a higher risk begin getting annual checkups earlier, between 40 and 45.
One of the biggest issues with physical prostate exams is the taboo that comes with them: “Out of fear [men] may classify [them] with war, famine, drought, and other natural disaster or man-made catastrophes–something to be feared and avoided at all costs,” prostate.net writes.
There is no prior preparation necessary, aside from remembering to try your best to relax. Before the exam begins, your doctor will either ask you to lie on the exam table on your left side with your knees bent or stand feet apart with your elbows resting on the exam table. Your doctor will then insert a gloved finger into your rectum at a downward angle, waiting briefly for your sphincter to relax before feeling around for any abnormalities such as lumps. While it’s likely you’ll feel pressure or the urge to urinate, it’s unlikely you’ll feel pain unless you have an inflamed prostate. There’s also a small chance you’ll have a vasovagal reaction to the procedure as well, which may lead to dizziness or fainting.
If your doctor finds any cause for concern, it’s likely your next steps will include various assessments, including a PSA test and biopsy, both of which are often inaccurate and could lead to further complications. You can read more about how our non-invasive, MRI-based prostate cancer screening technique compares to the industry standard procedures here.