Five things men should know about a prostate exam

Getting men to talk about certain medical issues is like pulling teeth for some. But no matter how uncomfortable the topic may be, it could be the difference between life and death. 

Dr. Steven Bischof
Steven Bischof, D.O., Board Certified Family Physician at St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Pooler

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in American men after skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. This year, about 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed.

The good news is the death rate is fairly low with only 1 in 35 dying from prostate cancer. A main reason for that is early detection through prostate exams.

“You need to get ongoing screening for prostate cancer as your ability to survive the cancer depends on early detection and treatment,” says Steven Bischof, D.O., Board Certified Family Physician at St. Joseph’s/Candler Primary Care located in Pooler.

Dr. Bischof addresses five frequently asked questions and answers men should know about a prostate exam.

1. What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is walnut sized and located between the bladder and the penis, just in front of the rectum. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, which secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm.

2. What is a prostate exam?
A Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) is when a doctor inserts a lubricated gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate. The exam can sometimes detect an enlarged prostate, lumps or nodules of prostate cancer or tenderness from an inflamed prostate, Dr. Bischof says. Prostate exams should be performed along with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which checks PSA levels in the blood.

“Most healthy men have levels under 4.0, but everybody’s different and your physician should help decide if your PSA is at a safe level,” Dr. Bischof advises.

3. Who should have an exam?
The American Cancer Society recommends men at average risk of prostate cancer should have testing beginning at age 50. Men at higher than average risk, such as those with a family history of prostate cancer diagnosed before age 65 and African-American men, should begin testing at age 40. How frequently you need an exam depends on previous results; however, most physicians recommend an exam every two to four years.

4. Does it hurt?
The exam last just a matter of seconds. Some may experience short-term discomfort but typically no side effects.

5. Why is getting a prostate exam so important?
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in men after skin cancer. In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates 26,730 men will die from prostate cancer. Men usually don’t show signs or symptoms of the disease until it’s in more advanced stages. Regular screenings are the best method to catch prostate cancer early, improving your chances of survival.


Need to find a doctor in the Savannah area? Click here to find a primary care physician nearest you. 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000