Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer in men – skin cancer being the first. One in seven men will develop prostate cancer with an average age of diagnosis of sixty-six years old. Luckily, survival rates of prostate cancer are relatively good, especially if it’s caught early. Cancer is always a serious diagnosis. However, there are several steps men can take to stay healthy and reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer. When it comes to your health – knowledge is power.
Prostate Cancer 101
The prostate is a gland that sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Its job is to produce seminal fluid and transport sperm. Prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cells form in this fluid making area of the body. The abnormal cells outpace healthy cell growth and can form a tumor. Although a serious condition, prostate cancer usually grows slowly and doesn't spread to other areas. An early diagnosis of prostate cancer that hasn't spread to other places in the body is the best formula for successful treatment.
It's important to note that prostate cancer often produces no obvious symptoms in the early stages. Regular prostate cancer screenings may be a good option to aid in early detection. When symptoms do develop, they most commonly result in:
- Trouble urinating
- Blood in the semen
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Erectile dysfunction
- Aching bones
While all men are at risk of developing prostate cancer, there are additional risk factors that make it more likely. These include:
- Age: As you age, your risk of developing prostate cancer increases.
- Race: African American men have a higher risk of prostate cancer. The type of prostate cancer developed also tends to be more aggressive. It's unknown why this is the case.
- Family History: A family history of prostate cancer and/or breast cancer increase the risk of prostate cancer.
- Obesity: Prostate cancer in obese men is particularly hard to treat and often isn't diagnosed until the late stages.
Medical professionals have varying opinions on when, how often, and what type of prostate cancer screenings men should have. Consult a doctor to develop a plan for prostate screenings. The most common types are:
Digital rectal exam (DRE)
This screening involves manually examining the prostate to check for an unusual texture, shape, or size.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test
A blood sample is analyzed to determine the level of PSA in the blood. Higher levels may indicate prostate cancer.
If abnormalities are found with these screenings, additional tests may include:
- An ultrasound to get a better picture of the prostate
- A prostate biopsy to determine the presence of cancer cells in the tissue
- MRI fusion that provides 360-degree imaging that can also improve the accuracy of a prostate biopsy
Treatment for prostate cancer varies depending on the growth rate, symptoms, and if it's spread to other parts of the body. In some cases, the cancer is monitored closely, but no immediate treatment is needed. In other cases, removing the prostate, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy, or freezing the tissue to kill the cancer cells may be treatment options.
While a cancer diagnosis is a cause for concern, there are effective treatments that offer hope. It's important to report any symptoms, and take steps to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle. We're ready to answer any of your questions about prostate cancer. Contact the Cancer Center for more information.