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What is a Prostate Biopsy?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2016
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A prostate biopsy is a diagnostic procedure used to determine whether a man has prostate cancer. The prostate is a gland that only men have. Shaped like a walnut and rather small, this gland’s job is to produce fluid important for sperm movement and nourishment. The prostate is found beneath a man’s bladder but in front of his rectum.

A needle is used to perform a prostate biopsy, which is also called a core needle biopsy. This needle is wielded by a special type of doctor, called a urologist. He or she specializes in dealing with the male reproductive organs as well as those involved in urination.

Usually, a prostate biopsy is not the first test performed in diagnosing prostate cancer. Some of the tests used before this procedure include a digital-rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen test, which is a type of blood test. If the results of these tests indicate the possibility of prostate cancer, a urologist may suggest a prostate biopsy as the next step.

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Prostate biopsies are potentially lifesaving, as they may allow doctors to detect cancerous cells and perform treatment before cancer can become advanced enough to take a life. However, they are not without risks, such as those related to infection. In fact, infection, though still a rare complication, is considered the most common risk of this type of biopsy. When infection does develop, it usually affects the urinary tract, or it may involve in the prostate itself. Usually, these infections can be successfully treated with antibiotics.

Bleeding is another complication that may develop after a prostate biopsy. For example, a man may bleed in the area in which the biopsy was performed. Some men may also notice blood in their semen after the procedure. Blood in the semen after a biopsy isn’t considered harmful, though it may persist for several weeks. Men should avoid blood-thinning medications after this type of biopsy, unless their doctors have approved of their use.

Some men may have trouble urinating after this type of procedure. However, this effect is usually only temporary. In some rare cases, a medical professional will have to insert a catheter to allow a man’s bladder to empty. Following a prostate biopsy, a doctor will examine the biopsy samples to check for cancer and other abnormalities. If the doctor finds cancer, further evaluation is necessary to determine its probable growth rate and develop treatment options.

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