Detecting and diagnosing prostate cancer
In 2023, it is estimated that over 25,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and over 3700 men will die from the disease. Detecting and diagnosing prostate cancer early is vital to help bring these numbers down. However, our research shows that 75% of Australians don’t know the guidelines for prostate cancer testing, and only 36% of prostate cancers are detected at the early stage, when treatment is most effective.
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer is a life changing event. This section of your toolkit will help you understand your risk of getting prostate cancer and how it is detected and diagnosed.
You will learn:
- The testing used to detect prostate cancer
- The different PSA tests available in Australia
- How this disease is diagnosed
- The process of staging and grading your prostate cancer and what that means
- How genetics play a role in prostate cancer risk, what is involved in genetic testing and how testing can help to individualise/personalise your treatment
- The role of specialised technology that can accurately detect prostate cancer – testing
PSA Testing: learn about the tests to detect prostate cancer
Testing for prostate cancer is done using a simple blood test called the PSA test (or prostate specific antigen test). It doesn’t diagnose prostate cancer, but depending on your symptoms, risk factors, medical and family history, this will often be the first test you’ll have to check for any issues with your prostate.
Learn what PSA is and find out why PSA testing is a simple but important strategy for detecting prostate cancer early. Also, understand whether you should talk to your doctor about having this test and explore the possible benefits and potential harms of PSA testing, how the test is done and what happens once you have the results.
Diagnosis: find out how prostate cancer is diagnosed
Diagnosing or ruling out prostate cancer is not simple, but involves a complex fact-finding process. Your doctor will consider your symptoms, age, family history and the results of many different tests and examinations. If this information suggests that there is a chance that you may have prostate cancer your doctor is likely to recommend that you have a biopsy.
Find out the different types of hormone therapy, what’s involved, the different types of hormone therapy medications and how they work, what you need to consider before going on hormone therapy and the possible side effects.
Grading and staging: discover how prostate cancer is staged and graded
Diagnosing prostate cancer involves classifying your cancer into different stages and grades. This helps you and your healthcare team understand if your cancer is low or high risk, whether it is localised to your prostate or has spread (advanced), or whether it is likely to grow or spread into other parts of your body. This information can help guide your treatment.
Learn about surgery to remove your prostate gland and cancer, what happens before and during your hospital stay, what to expect after your surgery, the benefits, side effects, risks or complications associated with surgery, how your pain will be managed and what to expect when you get home.
Genetics: explore how we can use genetic testing in prostate cancer
Testing your DNA for gene mutations (changes) can help to determine your risk of getting prostate cancer. If you have prostate cancer, looking at the genes in the cancer cells can help predict if your cancer is low or high risk. New research findings and developments in technology are paving the way for genetic testing to be used to personalise treatment options.
PSMA PET/CT: discover this new techology is changing the way prostate cancer is diagnosed
PSMA PET/CT is a new and specialised technology that has been shown to be the most accurate scan for detecting and staging prostate cancer, even when your cancer is very small, with higher accuracy rates than CT scans and bone scans.
Your questions answered
Does a positive PSA test result mean I have prostate cancer?
No. A positive PSA test result means your PSA levels are out of the normal range for your age. This only means that there may be something not right with your prostate and further examinations may be required.
There are three different PSA tests, will I have all three?
What are the current Australian guidelines for PSA testing?
Will I have to have a digital rectal examination?
If a biopsy is the only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer, why don’t I have that straight after a PSA test?
A biopsy is a surgical procedure and like all surgery comes with risks. There are less invasive imaging tests and scans that can be done before a biopsy that will provide you, your doctor and healthcare team with more information about what is going on in your prostate, so you can make an informed decision about whether a biopsy is appropriate for you.
I have been told I have stage 1 prostate cancer what does that mean?
Stage 1 cancer means that your cancer has remained within your prostate gland and has not spread to other parts of your body. You can learn about the different stages of prostate cancer here: Stages of Prostate Cancer
My cancer has been given a ISUP Grade of 4, what does this mean?
Grading is done after a biopsy, where a pathologist looks under a microscope at the cells in the small samples of tissue taken from your cancer. Different patterns in the cells provides information on the possible behaviour of your cancer. An ISUP Grade of 4 means that your cancer is high risk as it could be fast growing and more likely to spread. Learn more about grading here: Your Gleason Score & ISUP Grade
I don’t have a family history of prostate cancer but my mother had breast cancer, does that mean anything?
Having breast cancer may mean your mother had BRCA gene mutations. This means that you may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Your doctor will discuss your family history and genetic testing and whether PSA testing is appropriate for you at an earlier age. Learn more by following the link to: BRCA Genes & Prostate Cancer