Tests that may initially detect prostate cancer include a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test, reports the American Cancer Society. If these tests detect the possibility of prostate cancer, the doctor may next use a transrectal ultrasound to view the prostate. To definitively determine the presence of cancer, the doctor performs a prostate biopsy.
Early stages of prostate cancer often do not cause symptoms, explains Mayo Clinic. As the cancer progresses, a patient may manifest symptoms such as difficulty urinating, bone or pelvic pain, erectile dysfunction and blood in the semen. A digital rectal exam involves a doctor inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to check for prostate abnormalities. A prostate-specific antigen blood test assesses whether the PSA level in a blood sample is higher than normal, although abnormal PSA levels may also indicate prostate inflammation, enlargement or infection as well as cancer.
During a prostate biopsy, a doctor removes several tissue samples to inspect under a microscope, according to the American Cancer Society. The doctor uses transrectal ultrasound to view the prostate and a hollow needle to extract the samples. After diagnosing prostate cancer, a doctor may use imaging tests such as a bone scan, computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging to assess its spread.