Each year hundreds of thousands of men are told they have prostate cancer. While there will be decisions to make regarding treatment, a prostate ultrasound will no doubt be in your future. This information is meant to educate you about prostate ultrasound.
Ultrasound machines use the very same principles that dolphins and submarines use. Once sound vibrations hit objects, echoes return, which are then measured to determine the distance, size, shape and consistency of objects. The test will also show if the object is fluid-filled, solid or both. During prostate ultrasound, a transducer is inserted in the male patient to detect possible conditions and other abnormalities that can threaten health.
General Prostate Ultrasound
During the examination, the transducer will send sound vibrations then record the returning echoes. Once it is pressed against the skin, small pulses of high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to human ears are sent into the body. Once the waves bounce off the fluids, tissues and internal organs, the microphone inside the transducer records the slightest changes in the direction and pitch of the sound. The signature waves are immediately measured and displayed by a computer, providing real-time images on the screen. One or more frames can be captured as still images.
The prostate gland of males is found directly in front of the rectum. The ultrasound test is then performed transrectally. A disposable protective cover will be put over the transducer. The probe will then be lubricated and inserted into the rectum. If there is a suspicious lesion present, a biopsy may be performed, using ultrasound to guide the needle to correctly target the organ and acquire the necessary cells or tissues. The entire exam is usually done in 20 minutes or less.
Expect the ultrasound machine to be quick and painless. You may feel slight discomfort upon insertion of the probe into your body. Needle insertion during biopsy renders minimal pain. A radiologist is assigned to supervise and translate the results. The images will be saved followed by a report sent to the referring physician or primary care center. The results will most likely be available in a few minutes or after 1 or 2 days.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The only disadvantage of diagnostic ultrasound is that there is some heat produced and bubbles possibly formed. These effects have very minimal effects, however, rendering the procedure safe as a whole. Ultrasound machines are widely available, portable and easy-to-use. It is also less costly to go through it compared to other popular methods. There are no health problems incurred due to radiation and other traditional measures.
Men who used to have surgical removal of the tail end of their rectum or bowel are not the best candidates for prostate gland ultrasound, since it is required to put a probe inside the rectum. The size of the probe is similar to a finger. You need to have an enema too 2 to 4 hours prior to the procedure. You are also not allowed to urinate, so that your full bladder can better present images. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic, taken in 4 doses from the night before the test until the day after the test.
Stay relaxed and wear comfortable clothing for the diagnostic procedure. Ultrasound machines are generally painless. You may have some mucus or bleeding in your rectum after the procedure. Some experience some blood in their urine up to 2 days after the ultrasound. Blood may also show in the semen.
Minimal blood should be no concern, but report anything unusual immediately to your physician.