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Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer diagnostic evaluations

Our prostate cancer experts use a variety of diagnostic tools and technologies, including imaging and laboratory tests, to screen for the disease. Knowing that waiting for answers can add to your anxiety, we offer reduce wait times for appointments, while working to deliver results in an expedited manner. Our multidisciplinary team of doctors and clinicians will then use what they learn to evaluate the type, stage and extent of the disease, so we can develop a treatment plan personalized to your needs, goals and preferences.

The types of tests you may undergo to diagnose prostate cancer include those listed below.


During a prostate cancer biopsy, your doctor guides a small probe into the rectum and removes a small tissue sample from the prostate for further examination. This tissue allows the doctor to stage the disease and determine an appropriate treatment plan.

Digital rectal exam

A digital rectal exam is usually the first step in determining prostate health, and is often performed as part of routine screening, such as an annual physical.

Imaging tests

A number of imaging tests may be used to determine the type, stage and progression of your prostate cancer, including:

Bone scan: Prostate cancer may metastasize to the bones. If you are experiencing bone pain or blood tests reveal elevated calcium levels, your radiation oncologist may perform a bone scan to detect if prostate cancer has spread to the bones.

CT scan: A CT scan reveals blood flow and anatomy of tissues in and around the prostate, allowing for the diagnosis and monitoring of tumor growth.

MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) may be especially useful for the prostate, due to greater soft tissue contrast.

PET/CT scan: A PET/CT scan is useful for prostate cancer because scans may reveal cancerous cells before tumors or structural changes are present. This is important to catch the disease early. We may use the GE Discovery™ PET/CT 600 scanner,a four-dimensional CT scanner that produces detailed cross-sectional X-ray images of structures within the body. It also enables radiologists to plan treatment in accordance with patients’ breathing patterns.

ProstaScint scan: This technology may be used to determine whether prostate cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, adjacent tissues or bones.

Ultrasound: This technology may be used to monitor prostate size, tumor response or activity in other tissues. In detecting prostate cancer, your doctor may also recommend a transrectal ultrasound. During this exam, a small probe is inserted into the rectum so sound waves may provide a picture of the prostate and measure its size. Images will reveal tumors, calcifications and enlargement of the prostate.

Lab tests

The most common lab test for prostate cancer is advanced genomic testing, which examines a tumor to look for DNA alterations that are driving the growth of cancer. By identifying the mutations that occur in a cancer cell’s genome, we are able to see a clearer picture of tumor behavior, and may be able to tailor your treatment based on these findings.

PSA test: This lab test, which measures the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) protein in the blood, is one way to detect prostate cancer. It is often performed along with a digital rectal exam so your doctor may feel the prostate for abnormalities in shape, size and texture. A high PSA level may be a sign of prostate cancer, but it also may be due to a urinary tract infection or prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia, both of which are noncancerous conditions.

Learn more about the symptoms of prostate cancer

Next topic: How is prostate cancer treated?