What should I expect at my urology exam?

Doctor reviewing a chart with a middle aged man

For many men, a visit to the urologist conjures dread. But despite the perceived unpleasantness, there are vital reasons to have a regular urology exam.

Prostate cancer affects 1 in 8 American men and is the second-most-common form of cancer in males, according to the American Cancer Society. The good news: It is treatable, especially if caught early. More than 3 million men in the United States are alive today after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

If fear of the exam is what is holding you back, here are some answers to common questions that might set your mind at ease.

What does a standard urology exam entail?

Along with a general exam, a urological exam generally consists of examination of the pelvic and genital areas. You would be asked to undress and given a gown to wear. For a man, we would examine the penis, including exposing the head of the penis if someone is uncircumcised, looking for any abnormalities of the urethra. A urologist would check for any masses on the testicles. You may also need a prostate exam, which is when your doctor places a gloved finger in the rectum to check for abnormalities in the prostate.

What would you say to a patient who is embarrassed about having the exam?

Urologists look at patients’ genitals all day, so we have seen it all. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or hesitant to get the exam. The main focus during the exam is to locate any areas of medical abnormalities.

What are the most common questions you receive from patients?

As a sexual health specialist, I most often see patients for erectile dysfunction and low testosterone, so most patients come to me looking for the little blue pill — Viagra. I always tell people the best way to get your erections stronger and improve testosterone levels naturally is to stay physically active — especially more high-intensity exercises that raise the heart rate.

What questions should a patient expect to answer?

You will be asked some basic questions about your medical history, as well as more detailed questions about your symptoms, such as your sexual health history, erectile function and libido. If you are seeing a urologist for urinary symptoms, you will be asked details about that, including if you have blood in your urine, if you feel like you have to urinate all the time or whether you have urinary leakage.

What are the most common diagnoses you find in patients?

As a sexual health specialist, I see erectile dysfunction, low testosterone and male infertility.

One of the most surprising things I find in many patients is Peyronie’s disease — penile curvature that develops due to trauma. This is quite common but rarely talked about. Patients who come in for this often have never heard of it, and many of them think they are the only person who has this.

This disease causes painful erections, and many men opt not to treat it out of a sense of shame. But if you suspect you have it, early treatment can help limit or improve symptoms. Peyronie’s disease generally does not go away on its own, so please talk to a urologist if you notice any symptoms.

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