An ultrasound is a type of imaging test. It’s a safe test that does not use radiation. It uses high-frequency sound waves to make images of the inside of your body. The images are seen on a computer screen.
Ultrasound can be used to look at the prostate gland. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system. This gland sits just under the bladder and in front of the lower part of the intestine (rectum).
When ultrasound is used
You may need a prostate ultrasound if your healthcare provider thinks you may have prostate cancer. An ultrasound is most often done after a digital rectal exam (DRE) or a PSA blood test. These are screening tests for prostate cancer.
How ultrasound helps
Ultrasound uses sound waves to make an image of the prostate gland. It helps your healthcare provider see if the gland looks normal. It can also be used to help guide a biopsy. For a biopsy, tiny pieces of tissue are taken out and tested for cancer. A prostate biopsy is done with a needle. Ultrasound helps your healthcare provider see where to put the needle.
If you have prostate cancer, you may choose to treat it with radioactive seeds. Ultrasound can be used to help your healthcare provider see exactly where to put these seeds in the prostate.
Before the test
You may be told to use an enema or suppository the night or morning before a prostate ultrasound. This is to clean all the stool out of your rectum. The test is often done in your healthcare provider’s office. It often takes less than 15 minutes.
If a biopsy may be done, you might be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medicines such as aspirin for a week or so before the test. This helps lower the risk of bleeding. You might also be given antibiotics before and after the test. This helps prevent infection.
During the test
What happens during the test:
You lie on your side with your knees bent or with your feet in stirrups.
A disposable cover is put on the ultrasound probe. The probe is tube-shaped and a bit larger than a thumb. A jelly is put on the probe to grease (lubricate) it.
Your healthcare provider gently puts the probe into your rectum. This may cause some mild pain.
The probe sends out sound waves. These make an image of your prostate on a computer screen. Your provider looks at the image. The size and shape of your prostate are checked.
If changes are seen in any part of your prostate, a thin, hollow needle might be put through your rectum and into the prostate gland. Small bits of the changed area fill the needle and are taken out for testing. You may feel pressure when this is done, but it doesn't hurt.
When the test is done, the probe is removed.
You can go home the same day, and go back to your normal activities. If a biopsy was done, you may see blood in your urine or semen. But this is rare.
After the test
Talk with your provider about when you will get your test results and what happens next.