Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in American men and will lead to an estimated 26,730 deaths in 2017. The silver lining is prostate cancer has a nearly 100 percent 5-year survival rate if caught in the local stage. But if it’s not caught, and is allowed to spread, this rate drops to 29 percent. This is why it’s so important that men talk to their doctors about prostate cancer getting tested for prostate cancer when the time comes.

When You Need the Exam

Your primary care physician will know best when you should be screened. There are several factors to your risk of prostate cancer, and age is the biggest. As we age, the chances of a prostate cancer diagnosis grow. Almost 60 percent of all diagnoses are in men over the age of 65.

Family history also influences when you should begin getting tested. If there are cases of prostate cancer in your family, the chances you’ll also be diagnosed at some point rises.

In fact, if you have a brother or father who have been diagnosed, the likelihood that you will develop prostate cancer doubles. A poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity are also linked to increased chances of prostate cancer.

Most men begin receiving the screening at age 50, right on the cusp of when diagnoses skyrocket. If you are at a higher risk, your doctor will suggest you begin even earlier, in some cases around age 40 or 45. You’ll also need a screening if you begin showing symptoms of prostate cancer.

Signs of Prostate Cancer

Symptoms of prostate cancer begin to develop along with the tumor, often due to the swell of the prostate gland. Signs may also appear if the cancer spreads beyond the prostate. Once symptoms begin to manifest, you should immediately talk to your doctor. Common symptoms are:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • A weak or interrupted stream
  • Leakage
  • Inability to urinate while standing
  • Painful or burning urination or ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen

It’s important to note that these are not symptoms of cancer itself, but signs of the tumor. If you have these symptoms, it may be caused by a non-cancerous blockage or UTI. All the same, see your doctor if you show these signs.

Unfortunately, the earliest stages of the disease may have little to no symptoms. This is why a screening can become so important. Even if you’re not showing signs, your doctor may be able to catch it while the cancer is still treatable.

The Screening

If your doctor becomes concerned that you may have prostate cancer or you fall into the risk group, a screening is a logical step. General screenings fall into two different categories. The most common test you’ll receive for prostate cancer is a digital screening.

In this instance, digital doesn’t mean computers, it means digits, as in fingers. The other screening is a blood test. Neither test is perfect, but if the doctor sees signs that concerns them, you may be brought in for more tests.

The next level of screening is an ultrasound and biopsy. This will give you and your doctor a better idea about your diagnosis. By removing a small amount of tissue from the prostate, a lab can detect signs of cancer. This test will be able to identify any cancer, the grade, aggressiveness, and chances of it spreading. Your doctor may also call for a cystoscopy.

Are Prostate Exams Covered by Insurance?

All men over 50 are covered if they’re enrolled in Part B. Medicare covers a digital rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen blood test (PSA) every 12 months. The PSA is fully covered, while you’re expected to pay for 20 percent of the digital exam.

Most preventative procedures are covered by Medicare Advantage plans, but you should check your specific plan to determine for sure.

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If you’re debating whether to get screened for prostate cancer, talk to your doctor. If they suggest it, do it. The tests are not invasive and are most likely covered by your insurance. A trip to the doctor’s office and a moment’s discomfort are worth knowing. Knowing can mean the difference between life and death.