Tests can find out whether you might have prostate cancer or another prostate problem, such as an enlarged prostate or prostatitisYou might hear these tests called a prostate check up or prostate exam.

Why might I have prostate tests?

Your GP might suggest having tests if you have symptoms of a prostate problem. Prostate problems can cause urinary symptoms, such as needing to rush to the toilet or needing to go more often than normal.

Urinary symptoms are usually caused by problems that aren’t cancer, such as an enlarged prostate or a urine infection.

Most men with early prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms. Prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body can cause weight loss and pain in the back, hips or pelvis. But these symptoms are often caused by other problems. It’s a good idea to get any symptoms checked out by your GP. They will want to make sure you get the right diagnosis so you can get the right treatment.

You may also have tests if you’re at higher risk of getting prostate cancer. In the UK, about 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives. And you’re more likely to get prostate cancer if you’re aged 50 or over, you’re Black, or your father or brother has had it.

What tests are done at the GP surgery?

There is no single test to diagnose prostate cancer. There are a few tests that your GP can do to find out if you have a prostate problem. The main tests include:

Before you have these tests, your GP should explain what they involve and talk you through the advantages and disadvantages. They can help you understand more about prostate cancer and your own risk of getting it. It’s up to you whether you have the tests, so make sure you’ve got all the information you need, and give yourself time to think it through.

After you’ve had the tests, your GP will talk through the results with you. If they think you may have a prostate problem, they’ll make an appointment for you to see a specialist at a hospital.

What tests are done at the hospital?

At the hospital you will see a specialist, who will usually be a urologist or specialist nurse. You may have another PSA test or DRE.

The specialist will look at your:

They might recommend another PSA test at your GP surgery in the future. Or they might recommend further tests, including:

  • a prostate biopsy
  • an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • a CT (computerised tomography) scan
  • a bone scan - with or without X-rays.

You might also have a urine flow test and an ultrasound scan of your bladder. These are usually done to check for an enlarged prostate.

If you have a very high PSA level (for example, in the hundreds or thousands), you may have prostate cancer that has spread outside the prostate. So you might not need a biopsy. Instead, you may have a scan to show if there is cancer and see how far it has spread.

In some hospitals you might have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan before a biopsy. This can help your doctor see if there is any cancer in your prostate and where it might be.

If you’re worried about these tests or would like more information, speak to your doctor or nurse. Or you can speak to our Specialist Nurses.

References

Updated: July 2016 | Due for Review: July 2018

  • List of references  

    Cancer Research UK. Prostate cancer incidence statistics [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2014 Sep 16]. Available from: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/types/prostate/incidence/#age

    Cancer Research UK. Prostate cancer incidence statistics: Lifetime risk (2010). 2012.

    Collin SM, Metcalfe C, Donovan J, Lane JA, Davis M, Neal D, et al. Associations of lower urinary tract symptoms with prostate-specific antigen levels, and screen-detected localized and advanced prostate cancer: a case-control study nested within the UK population-based ProtecT (Prostate testing for cancer and Treatment) study. BJU Int. 2008 Jun 6;102(0):1400–6.

    Johns LE, Houlston RS. A systematic review and meta-analysis of familial prostate cancer risk. BJU Int. 2003;91(9):789–794.

    Jones AL, Chinegwundoh F. Update on prostate cancer in black men within the UK. Ecancermedicalscience. 2014;8:455.

    Lloyd T, Hounsome L, Mehay A, Mee S, Verne J, Cooper A. Lifetime risk of being diagnosed with, or dying from, prostate cancer by major ethnic group in England 2008–2010. BMC Med. 2015 Dec;13(1).

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Prostate Cancer: diagnosis and treatment. Full guideline 175. 2014.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Suspected cancer: recognition and referral. NICE Guideline 12. June 2015 [Internet]. 2015. Available from: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng12/evidence/full-guidance-65700685

    Popiolek M, Rider JR, Andrén O, Andersson S-O, Holmberg L, Adami H-O, et al. Natural History of Early, Localized Prostate Cancer: A Final Report from Three Decades of Follow-up. Eur Urol. 2013;63(3):428–35.

    Public Health England. Prostate cancer risk management programme (PCRMP): benefits and risks of PSA testing [Internet]. GOV.UK; 2016. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-psa-test-benefits-and-risks/prostate-cancer-risk-management-programme-pcrmp-benefits-and-risks-of-psa-testing