Guest Blog: What You Need to Know About Self-Checking for Prostate Cancer at Home
Chris Williams
Chris Williams

Hear from friend of Syrona Health and fellow YC Founder, Chris Williams, founder of Tiggo Care, a community care business supporting the elderly in London, about what you need to know about self-checking for prostate cancer at home.

What is prostate cancer?

Cancer of the prostate is a disease where cells in the prostate start to divide uncontrollably and it can spread into the surrounding tissues if left untreated. 1 in 8 men will develop prostate cancer, and if you’re over 50, or you’re black, or your dad or brother had prostate cancer, you’re at an even higher risk. It is the most common cause of cancer but if it is detected early it is easy to treat and once treated the risk of serious health implications is low.

Symptoms of prostate cancer

Most prostate cancers are symptomless and hence it’s important for men over 50 to regularly test at least once every two or three years. Symptoms will only appear once the cancer has grown to a size where it is pressing on the urethra, which is the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. Prostate cancer of this size might have the following symptoms:

  • Frequently needing to urinate
  • Straining while urinating
  • Feeling that your bladder has not fully emptied

These symptoms alone do not confirm that you have prostate cancer and that’s why it’s always important to test. These symptoms could also relate to benign health conditions, such as an enlarged prostate, or other diseases, such as prostatitis or a urinary tract infection.

Testing for Prostate Cancer at Home

You can test for prostate cancer at home using a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. This test measures the level of PSA in your blood and can help to detect early prostate cancer, which is currently available on the SORA app by Syrona Health. PSA is a protein made by the prostate gland. Elevated levels of PSA can indicate that you have prostate cancer. PSA levels exceeding 3ng/ml are often considered high if you’re aged 50 to 69. However, some medical professionals argue that higher and lower thresholds should be used depending on the patient's age. Hence, you can get tests with different thresholds. If you are over 50, you can ask your GP for the test, or you can order a test from an online pharmacy to take the test at home. 

The test kits that you use at home are similar to the lateral flow COVID-19 tests used during the pandemic. The main difference is that you use a sample of blood to test for PSA rather than an oral or nasal sample. You only need a couple of drops of blood which you add to a diluent and wait around 5 to 10 minutes before adding a couple of drops from the mixed blood sample and diluent to the test device. You use a lancet, also known as a finger-prick, on one of your fingers to release a small amount of blood. Like a COVID-19 lateral flow test, two lines indicate a positive result and one line indicates a negative result. If no lines show then you must repeat the test because it was unsuccessful.

These tests are not perfect and not all men who get a ‘positive’ result will have prostate cancer because there are multiple reasons for men having a high PSA concentration in their blood. For example, conditions such as a benign enlarged prostate, prostatitis or urinary tract infection can all increase the amount of PSA produced by the prostate. Disease isn’t the only factor that can affect PSA blood concentration. Lifestyle factors, such as vigorous exercise and anal sex can elevate PSA levels, as can certain medications and urinary catheters. In fact, it is estimated that 3 in 4 men with a raised PSA will not have cancer

There are also cases where men have a normal concentration of PSA in the blood but still have prostate cancer. Around 1 in 7 men with prostate cancer will have a normal PSA result. This is why doctors in the UK advised the government not to introduce a national PSA screening program and anyone taking a PSA test should be cautious of the result. The good news is that there are more reliable ways of testing for prostate cancer at professional healthcare facilities.

Other Methods of Checking for Prostate Cancer

One of the most reliable ways to test for prostate cancer is to have a trained medical professional perform a digital rectal examination. This examination involves a doctor or nurse using their finger to check for prostate cancer. It’s a much more reliable indicator of prostate cancer but requires a trained professional, unlike the at-home PSA test.

If the doctor or nurse thinks they have identified prostate cancer during an examination they will likely suggest you take another type of test to confirm the result. Usually, they will suggest a biopsy where a small sample of the prostate tissue will be removed and examined under a microscope for signs of cancer. Sometimes they will recommend an MRI scan, which is a non-invasive method of testing for cancer. However, the only way to guarantee a diagnosis is with a biopsy.

What Happens Next if You’re Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

In the UK, you will be referred to a specialist who will discuss different treatment options. You may not need treatment and in those cases, you will be advised to ‘watch and wait’. You may also be asked to take regular tests to see if the condition worsens. If you and your specialist decide to actively treat the prostate cancer then you will either undergo a prostatectomy, where a surgeon removes the cancerous tissue, or you will undergo radiotherapy. Treatment can sometimes have side effects such as erectile dysfunction, loss of fertility or incontinence, so it’s important to discuss the benefits and risks of treatment with your cancer specialist before you embark on a treatment program.


In conclusion, it’s important for men over 50 to regularly test for prostate cancer, even if they don’t have symptoms. It is possible to test for prostate cancer at home using a PSA blood test, but these home tests are not as reliable as other methods for checking for prostate cancer that can be performed by trained medical professionals. If you want to check the health of your prostate it is best to book a consultation with a doctor or nurse and they will recommend the best type of test for you based on your symptoms, age and family history.

Do you want to support your workforce with guidance from experts about prostate cancer? Download our Prostrate Cancer Toolkit which is specifically designed for HR, Benefits teams and staff to raise awareness about this condition.


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