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How Do You Perform a Prostate Self-Exam? Should You Do It?

Preparing for a prostate self-exam

For longer than anyone can recall, the word exam has struck young men with feelings of terror and anxiety. However, put “prostate” before it, and suddenly we’ve entered a whole new realm of dread.

It’s inevitable that at some point in a man’s life, he’ll have to undergo a prostate exam. It’s recommended that, at the latest, you get your first check-up around the age of 45. Prostate cancer is unfortunately quite prevalent, and an exam could catch it early enough to save your life.

Understandably, some men simply aren't comfortable having a doctor perform this procedure unless they’ve deemed it absolutely necessary, leaving them to wonder, “can you check your own prostate?” You absolutely can, but should you?

If you refuse to see a doctor first, you should learn how to undergo a prostate self-exam so that you can check yourself periodically, and decide whether it’s finally time to visit the hospital for a true professional medical analysis.

Reasons to Do a Prostate Self-Exam

Is there any reason why a man should choose to opt specifically for a prostate exam when examining his health? What about alternatives?

A prostate exam is a key pillar in medical analysis when it comes to checking up on the health of a man. Many men struggle with confidence issues when it comes to their private regions, which can make going to see the doctor, a person who is most likely a stranger to you, quite embarrassing. By learning to perform a prostate self-exam, you can maintain your sense of privacy, and you’ll also be able to check up on your health far more often without having to pay costly consultation fees.

A single prostate exam is relatively inexpensive, generally costing under $100 dollars, but it can cost more than $200 depending on where you get your checkup done. It’s preferable to go to a doctor, but as these costs can add up if you choose to get checked frequently, due to reasons such as having a family history of prostate cancer, some men may choose to check at home.

It’s crucial to remember that you cannot actually physically check for cancer with a self-prostate exam, only special screening devices can detect cancer. There are “at-home” screening devices, but these are costly. It’s best to self-examine prostates with the goal of detecting abnormalities in shape, such as it being inflamed, and not with an expectation of being able to detect cancer.

Proneness to prostate cancer

Man with proneness to prostate problems

For men whose ancestors have a medical history of prostate cancer, the risk of developing the condition is a great deal more significant. However, there are other natural factors that also increase your risk of contracting the condition.

African and African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than men from other racial groups. They are also about twice more likely to die of prostate cancer than men of other races. Overall prostate cancer seems to aggressively impact black men the most, as not only do they get prostate cancer at a younger age on average, but the disease tends to be a more severe form and is also generally found at a later stage in its progression.

This is due to a variety of reasons, with most of the evidence pointing towards environmental conditions, however, some discriminatory, financial, and cultural reasons are likely to also be at play. By learning how to perform a self-prostate exam, some African and African-American men from less privileged backgrounds could be spared from this horrendous condition, and get the medical attention they need before it’s too late.

As a man gets older, his risk of prostate cancer also increases. About 60% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men who’ve reached age 65 or older. That’s why men are recommended to start getting their prostates checked from age 45, as the risk of disease really starts to pick up at this point in life. Older men tend to lose more control over their weight than younger men, and the correlation between obesity and an increased risk of cancer is well-studied. Prostate cancer is no exception.

Is it safe to self-examine prostates?

Can you check your own prostate safely? It isn’t recommended. Men can self-exam prostates relatively safely, but it’s recommended to have another trained individual, preferably a doctor, check it for you. Prostate exams are often referred to as “DREs”, or “Digital Rectal Examinations.”

The issue when it comes to prostate self-examination is that the positioning can be a little awkward and tricky to figure out, which in some cases might lead to injury, especially if the individual does not take precautions such as trimming their nails. There really isn’t any reason to perform a self-exam unless you can’t see a doctor for whatever reason.

The procedure does not cause any pain and only takes a few minutes. Your doctor will use gloves and lubrication for sanitation, and ease of entry. It’s possible that you may feel some discomfort, especially if this is your first time, but there will be no damage caused to your prostate.

The problem that many men will have when it comes to performing a prostate self-exam, as opposed to visiting a doctor, is thinking that it’s the end all and be all of the screening for your prostate's health. You still need to have other tests performed to guarantee your health, which simply cannot be carried out at home. A prostate examination is merely the first step in searching for any possible health concerns.

How to Do a Self-Prostate Exam if You Must

Preparing himself for a prostate exam

Prostate cancer is highly treatable so long as it is found early in its progression. Thankfully, about 90% of prostate cancers are found early on. If you absolutely must perform a prostate exam on yourself, which is ill-advised, you can at least decrease your odds of developing serious prostate cancer by finding some of the clues early on.

In order to perform a self-prostate exam, you’ll need a few items to help the process go smoothly. Namely sanitary medical gloves, lubrication meant for internal use, and a towel.

Lay the towel on a comfortable surface on which you can lie down on your back. Put on your medical gloves, and lubricate both the finger of the glove you intend to use and the entrance to your anus well. There isn’t any reason to be resourceful with the lubrication, using a generous amount will make the process far easier.

With your legs up and out of the way, position your index finger at your anus. The palm of your hand should be facing upwards to the roof, as should your stomach. You can now slowly enter your finger, about two inches into your rectum. You’ll notice something round about the size of a walnut, which is your prostate.

If you notice any lumps on your prostate or any odd hard spots, this could be a cause for concern. If you have performed this procedure before, and your prostate seems inflamed, or larger than usual, that could also be a major red flag. See a doctor and get a professional checkup performed.

Honestly, you’re better off skipping a self-exam and just going to the doctor. It will save a lot of hassle, and you’ll realize that a medical professional inspecting you isn’t really a big deal. You aren’t the first person they’ve checked, and you won’t be the last.

The risks of a self-prostate exam

There are a couple of risks associated with performing a self-prostate exam, most concerning of all being the very likely possibility of an incorrect diagnosis.

Unless you are a doctor (and you likely wouldn't be reading this if you were), you simply don’t have the experience needed to inform you of what a normal prostate actually feels like. Reading about it online vs. actually having physical experience cannot be compared.

Fingernails can cause tearing, inflammation, bleeding, and other painful conditions inside your rectum. You could very well cause more damage than you’ve spared yourself from by attempting to perform a self-prostate exam.

Some men enjoy performing all kinds of interesting and fun sexual acts with a hookup or partner, and that may include anal play. If you happen to be dating a doctor, you might be in luck! You could get a prostate exam and have fun doing it. The odds of specifically meeting a doctor are low unless you hang out around hospitals, but there and many great places to meet women. Maybe you’ll find your gorgeous doctor to “roleplay” with.

After Your Prostate Self-Exam

As we’ve mentioned, when trying to self-exam prostates, men can get it totally wrong.

Your first step should be to go to a doctor, but assuming you’ve skipped that part and think you may have found a cause for concern, what should your next step be?

You’ll want to head straight to your local medical clinic. Your prostate self-exam has, at the very least, helped you realize you may have an issue. Now it’s time to confirm it.

Your doctor will almost certainly perform another prostate exam, as they know that self-exams tend to be untrustworthy.

If you are deemed to have something unusual going on, your doctor will have you go through more tests. Most likely, this will be in the form of a “PSA” or “Prostate-specific antigen” test.

Prostate-specific antigens are produced at a higher level during prostatic disease, and therefore can be used as a sign that you may have prostate cancer.

If you are found to have a heightened level of PSA, then you’ll likely be tested with a transrectal ultrasound scan, a biopsy, or a PCA3 test.

The PCA3 test, also known as Prostate Cancer Screening, looks for the PCA3 gene which is found in high levels in those with prostate cancer.

Transrectal ultrasound uses ultrasound to produce images of your prostate. A small probe will be inserted into your rectum to achieve this, and it creates little to no discomfort.

Finally, a biopsy involves taking small amounts of tissue from your prostate using a needle. The tissue is looked at under a microscope, where it can be analyzed for signs of cancer. The biopsy takes about 15 minutes and may leave you feeling a tad tender.

What if I have prostate cancer?

Getting a prostate cancer diagnosis

If you are found to have prostate cancer, you’ll most likely have to go through another three rounds of testing. An MRI scan, CT scan, and bone scan are likely to take place, with the latter aiming to see if cancer has also spread to your bones.

For early stages of prostate cancer, local treatment may resolve the condition entirely. Surgery and localized radiation therapy may be used in these cases. However, if cancer has spread beyond your prostate, you may be prescribed medicines or other forms of treatment that aim to destroy cancer cells around the body. Hormone treatments may also be considered.

Dating during and after prostate cancer

Prostate cancer can come as a massive shock to you and your partner, but if you’re single, you may be worried about how your diagnosis could affect your chances at finding love, or even just hookups.

The medications and treatments associated with prostate cancer, such as the removal of the prostate, can indeed cause difficulties. Erectile dysfunction could occur. However, in the case of radiation-induced erectile issues, this will likely resolve itself once treatment ends.

While it will be difficult to date during treatment, thankfully, cancer survivors can expect no more difficulty in dating than those without a history of cancer. You can use your recovery period to practice your game on dating apps like tinder, or start planning some great date ideas you can try once you’re in tip-top shape.

Save the prostate exams for the hospital, try these ideas in the bedroom instead!

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