Prostate Cancer: Tests


Common tests to evaluate prostate cancer include:

Digital Rectal Exam

A doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall. The doctor checks for any hard or lumpy areas on the prostate.

Blood Test for Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)

This test checks the level of PSA in a man’s blood.


A doctor uses a thin, lighted tube to look into the urethra and bladder.

Transrectal Ultrasound (TRUS)

A transrectal ultrasound uses sound waves to make an image of the prostate onto a computer screen. A small probe is placed into the rectum then gives out sound waves, which enter the prostate and create echoes that are picked up by the probe. This procedure does not hurt, but patients may feel a little pressure.

Prostate Biopsy

During a biopsy, tissue is removed from the prostate to be examined for cancer cells in a lab. A core needle biopsy is used for this procedure. With the aid of TRUS, the doctor inserts a narrow needle through the wall of the rectum into the prostate gland. The needle then removes a small sample of tissue and it is sent to the lab for testing. This procedure is painless and causes very little discomfort since the area is numbed ahead of time.

These tests can help the doctor detect a problem with the prostate, but it cannot show whether it is cancer. Further tests will be ordered to make determine whether or not cancer is present.