No one is ever excited for a prostate exam.
“It’s just a finger exam, a digital rectal exam. That part takes four seconds. If you include the entire visit it takes about five minutes, once a year,” said Dr. John Kinahan, working at Victoria General and Royal Jubilee hospitals.
The urologist explained the rectal exam is used to see if there is any hardening of the prostate. “Even though it’s unpleasant it shouldn’t prevent people from getting checked. This can prevent long-term complications.”
If prostate cancer is diagnosed early it’s fairly able to treat, said Kinahan, explaining the options of surgery, radiation and hormone treatment.
“When I started my practice (in 1995) a lot of my patients were coming in dying of prostate cancer,” he said.
“Now there is way less (prostate cancer) being found in advanced stages. It makes my job more enjoyable not working with sick old guys dying and instead working with young healthy men.”
Each year around Father’s Day and during National Prostate Health Month in November, Kinahan said he and his colleagues notice a spike in patients coming in, due to the fundraisers for prostate cancers.
“I always tell people to get a physical on their birthday or near their birthday so they remember,” he said. “Father’s Day is good because we are reminded of our father’s health through events like the (Royal Roads) father’s day run.”
When discussing these exams Kinahan prefers the term prostate check-up to a cancer screening.
“When you say screening it’s implied you are taking a bunch of dirt, throwing it at a screen and hoping to find pebbles,” he said, explaining many people have their check-up and are healthy.
According to the Canadian Urology Association 14 per cent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and four per cent will die from it.
“Prostate cancer does kill people. It quietly maims them. They are uncomfortable for years and the men are usually older and not that vocal,” Kinahan said.
The CUA guidelines suggest any man over 40 should be tested every two years.
“Anyone who is 40 to 45 years old should think about having their first (Prostate-specific antigen test). By 50 they should have already had it,” Kinahan said.
If issues are found during a prostate check up doctors may require a biopsy.
“A biopsy is uncomfortable but we often give them sedation and make them comfortable and they forget the whole thing,” Kinahan said.
Still, getting men to go for a prostate check up isn’t always easy for doctors.
“I could write a requisition for 100 men and 90 would get it done and 10 just won’t,” he said.
Working as a urologist, most patients Kinahan sees already have issues with their prostate and have been referred to him by their family doctors.