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Prostate Ultrasound

A prostate problem can be a major health issue. One potential problem is prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is diagnosed by a digital rectal exam or a blood test called a PSA (prostate-specific antigen). Your health care provider may suggest that you have an ultrasound. This imaging test, along with a biopsy (tissue sample), helps your health care provider find cancer early. This is when it’s most likely to be treatable. Ultrasound does not involve radiation, and it does not lead to any long-term health problems.

Man lying on back on exam table with knees bent. Healthcare provider is sitting next to exam table with ultrasound machine. Closeup of prostate ultrasound with circle around abnormality.

What Ultrasound Reveals

Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves. This creates an image of the prostate gland. It helps your health care provider view abnormalities in the gland.

How Ultrasound Is Done

The ultrasound test is simple. It’s often done in your health care provider's office. It usually takes less than 15 minutes. You may be asked to use an enema or suppository before the test to clear your rectum. If a biopsy may be done, you’ll be given antibiotics both before and after the test. Apart from the discomfort of having the probe inserted into the rectum, the scan itself does not cause any pain. 

Creating the Image

During this procedure, you will be asked to lie on your side with your knees bent or with your feet in stirrups. The test uses a tubelike probe, barely bigger than a thumb. It is covered with a disposable protective cover and lubricated. Your health care provider gently inserts the probe into your rectum. The probe emits sound waves. These create an image of your prostate on a video screen. Your health care provider views the image. By looking at the size, shape, and structure of your prostate, he or she is able to detect problems.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS OCN
Last Review Date: 10/23/2013
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