Editor’s note: Throughout this blog, I write about the importance of getting prostate exams.  With effective and regular screenings, you have a fighting chance to catch prostate cancer in it’s earlier stages — when it’s treatable. I thought you would enjoy a guest article on prostate exams, from a woman’s perspective. As always, talk with your doctor and determine at what age you should begin prostate exams.

It’s one of the exams that men dread the most. Many have to be dragged in to see the doctor by their wives and partners. But really guys – is it so bad? It’s far less painful or traumatic than passing a kidney stone or getting a colonoscopy. And haven’t you already learned to handle awkward exams? “Turn your head and cough.” It’s time to get over those fears and do the right thing for your health.

What to Expect

A prostate exam is simply a digital rectal exam. (I know: “Simply.”) The doctor will use a gloved finger to feel inside your anus to check that there are no abnormalities on your prostate. He’ll check to make sure that it is smooth and isn’t hard or protruding into your rectum. That’s one finger. With lubrication. For a minute or two. And then it’s over! There’s no deep drilling and no sedatives involved. You won’t linger on the exam table in agony for hours. You won’t walk funny later. You won’t even feel any pain

You can handle it!

Who Needs Them

The American Cancer Society and the American Urological Association agree that all men should begin receiving annual prostate exams starting at age 50. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer are at higher risk and should begin screening at 45.  African-American men are also at higher risk of developing the disease and should start screening at 45.  Prostate cancer is 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed in African-American men than in white men of the same age. Those determined very high risk because of genetics or other factors may be encouraged to start screening at 40.

The American Urological Association also urges men to get at least one preliminary screening at age 40, and then to continue regular annual testing at 50.

Why You Need the Exam

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, and it can spread to other parts of the body, including the bones and lymph nodes.  Prostate cancer is a slow-growing disease with few symptoms, and most men are not diagnosed until they are in their 60s. Because the prostate is near the rectum, a prostate exam can detect abnormalities that can lead to early diagnosis. Though a blood test is also used to screen for prostate cancer, it is not always reliable for early detection.

Some symptoms of prostate cancer include:

        Frequent urination

        Difficulty urinating

        Weak or interrupted urination

        Pain during intercourse

        Erectile dysfunction

        Inability to urinate standing up

        Blood in urine or semen

However, many of these symptoms are not present until the cancer has spread. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms at all. Early detection can help catch the cancer before it is untreatable.

Just Do It

Yeah, so it’s uncomfortable, and it’s awkward. We ladies don’t like having our breasts smooshed on a glass plate for inspection either. But we have to do it. Because as awkward or uncomfortable as it might be, it will be far more traumatic and painful to find that you have an untreatable cancer or that you are facing months of intensive and painful medical treatments. Opt for the two minutes of embarrassment and give yourself many more years to fill with other happier, more exciting moments.

Maria Rainier is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s written on urban & regional planner jobs along with electrical engineering technology programs. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, playing piano, and working with origami.