March 20, 2023

What You Need to Know About Prostate Biopsies and Cancer

What You Need to Know About Prostate Biopsies and Cancer

Approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime and it is the second leading cause of death for men nationwide.

Despite this, prostate cancer is very treatable if detected early and treated before it is given the chance to spread. The good news is the five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with local or regional prostate cancer is nearly 100%. Early and regular screening is so important, because once the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, the survival rate drops to 31%.

After you undergo initial screenings, such as a urinalysis, blood test, or digital rectal exam,, your provider may recommend that you undergo a prostate biopsy.  Many men are unfamiliar with this procedure. Learning more about the purpose, benefits, and risks of a prostate biopsy is useful while consulting your doctor or physician.

When to administer a prostate biopsy

Traditionally, a urologist or other provider would recommend that a patient who received an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test result should undergo a prostate biopsy to determine the presence of prostate cancer. Research now shows that biopsies may sometimes be avoidable, since PSA levelss can be elevated for many reasons and don’t always lead to a diagnosis of prostate cancerIf your provider deems it appropriate, a prostate biopsy is one screening procedure used for determining the presence and aggressiveness of prostate cancer.

What to expect from a prostate biopsy

A prostate biopsy is a quick, outpatient procedure that will typically only take about 20 minutes. Your doctor will clean the area and apply a lubricant to gently insert an ultrasound probe, about the size of a finger, into your rectum. This will provide your doctor an image of your prostate to help guide them in conducting the procedure. Your doctor will then insert a small biopsy needle to numb the area and reduce discomfort. He or she will then use another type of needle to remove tissue samples from your prostate gland for analysis.

After your biopsy samples are collected, it is recommended that you do not participate in any extensive activities for the next few days. You may feel sore and have some light bleeding from your rectum or in your urine or stool. This is normal and should subside over the next few days. You may also experience red or rust-colored semen over the next few weeks.

It is best to discuss the procedure and side effects with your doctor as he or she will be able to provide insights specific to your health.

Possible risks from prostate biopsies

While a prostate biopsy can be effective in detecting the presence of prostate cancer, the procedure does carry some risk factors. It is important to consult your physician and fully understand any procedure before moving forward. Some risks include:

  • Extensive or prolonged bleeding from your biopsy site, rectum, urine or semen
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Fever
  • Urinary tract or prostate infection

To limit or avoid these risks and other abnormalities, your doctor may have you take some steps to prepare for your biopsy procedure including avoiding the use of medications that can increase risk of bleeding, taking an antibiotic to avoid infection, and possibly performingan enema to cleanse your system prior to the procedure. Additionally, the day of your biopsy, your doctor may request a urine sample to ensure no other infections exist that may negatively affect your health when undergoing a biopsy.

It is best to discuss any concerns or steps to prepare with your doctor as they can provide the recommendations for your care.

Are you considering a prostate biopsy?

Despite the possible risks, biopsy results  have been used to effectively detect the presence of prostate cancer for decades and are reliable procedures. So, they are not something to fear.  Rather they are one option to consider during your prostate cancer screening process.

In determining both your risk and the presence of cancer cells, consider your specific case and consult with your provider about the best options for you and your situation. Your doctor is your partner in this process and can help you navigate your healthcare journey.  Be open and honest about any fears or concerns you have and don’t be scared to ask questions at any stage from screening to cancer treatment.