You might go to your GP if you have urinary symptoms, are worried about prostate problems or because you are more at risk of getting prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer and other non-cancerous prostate problems can cause similar symptoms. They are treated differently, so it is important to get the right diagnosis. Many men with early prostate cancer have no symptoms at all.

What will happen at the GP surgery?

If you are having symptoms, your GP will ask you more about these. They can do a few tests to find out if you have a prostate problem. The main tests include:

It is up to you whether you have these tests. Your GP should explain what they involve and discuss the advantages and disadvantages. They should also discuss your risk of prostate cancer, and any other health problems you may have.

If you decide to have these tests and the results suggest you may have a prostate problem, your GP will make an appointment for you to see a doctor at a hospital for further tests.

Urine test

This involves you giving a urine sample to check for any infection that could be causing you problems urinating. This can also help rule out any problems with your kidneys or diabetes. You might also have a blood test to check that your kidneys are working properly

PSA blood test

The PSA test is a blood test that measures the total amount of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by cells in the prostate. Your PSA level rises as you get older.

Prostate problems such as an enlarged prostate and prostatitis, as well as prostate cancer, can cause your PSA level to rise.

A PSA test alone cannot tell you whether you have prostate cancer. Your GP will need to look at your PSA level together with other test results, like a digital rectal examination.

All men aged over 50 are entitled to have a PSA test as long as they have first talked through the pros and cons with their GP. Read more about the PSA test.

Digital rectal examination (DRE)

The DRE is a common way of helping to diagnose a prostate problem. Your doctor or nurse feels the prostate gland through the wall of the back passage (rectum).

The DRE may be carried out by your GP and will be repeated by the hospital specialist if your GP thinks you should see one. If you are having a PSA test as well, the DRE should be done after the PSA test if possible. This is because having a DRE straight before a PSA test might raise your PSA level a small amount.

You will lie on your side, on an examination table, with your knees brought up towards your chest. If you find it easier, you can stand and lean over the back of a chair or across the examination table instead.

The doctor or nurse will slide their finger gently into your back passage. They will wear gloves and put some gel onto their finger to make it more comfortable. Some men understandably find it embarrassing but it is over quickly and shouldn't be painful.

They will feel the back surface of the prostate gland for any hard or irregular areas and to estimate its size.Digital Rectal Examination

If your prostate gland is larger than expected, this could be a sign of an enlarged prostate. A prostate gland with hard bumpy areas may suggest prostate cancer.

If your DRE result shows anything unusual, you will be referred to a hospital specialist. The DRE is not a completely accurate test. A man with prostate cancer may have a DRE that feels normal.