The American Cancer Society strongly recommends regular prostate exams starting as early as age 40, depending on your cancer risk. Prostate exams and lifestyle choices are easy, proactive ways to prevent prostate cancer.

A prostate exam is a medical exam conducted by your urology specialist. Prostate exams typically include two main components, a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

  • Digital rectal exam: Your urologist places a lubricated and gloved finger into your rectum. They gently push your prostate with one hand while checking the pelvic area with the other
  • PSA Test: This blood test checks your levels of PSA, a protein the prostate produces. It’s normal to have a small amount of PSA in your blood. Because your prostate grows as you age, your PSA levels can rise slightly. Higher-than-normal PSA levels are often a sign of prostate problems, and some kinds of prostate cancer

Prostate exams help your physician diagnose problems like benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), prostate inflammation (prostatitis), and prostate cancer.

If you’re having symptoms of prostate problems, such as urinary difficulties, blood in your urine (hematuria), or pain during ejaculation, you likely need a prostate exam as part of the diagnostic process. Prostate exams are also part of regular prostate cancer screening for men as they age. Most men start prostate cancer screening between the ages of 40 and 50, although the starting age varies according to personal risk factors.

After your initial prostate cancer screening, your urologist determines how often you need a prostate exam based on your PSA levels, age, and other factors.