According to the American Cancer Society, one of every nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the U.S. after skin cancer. Prostate cancer is a serious disease, but with education, early detection and careful management, the vast majority of men with prostate cancer will survive the disease and enjoy a high quality of life after treatment.
• The disease tends to strike older men, with about six cases in 10 found in men aged 65 or older.
• African-American men have the highest incidence of the disease and are more likely to get prostate cancer at an earlier age.
• Men with a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer (father, brother or son) are two to three times more likely to develop the disease.
• Smoking is linked to a higher risk of dying from prostate cancer.
• Being overweight also increases the risk of death from the disease.
Should you be screened for prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer in its early stages usually causes no symptoms. Men with urinary symptoms usually do not have prostate cancer; rather symptoms are a result of a more commonly benign, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. The early detection of prostate cancer can involve a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a physical exam.
The American Cancer Society recommends that physicians discuss the benefit of PSA screening with men age 50 who are at average risk of developing prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 years or more. Men aged 45 who are at high-risk for developing prostate cancer should consult their physician about having a PSA blood test. This includes African-American men who have a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65).
Treatment for prostate cancer
The treatment of prostate cancer depends on the age and medical condition of the individual as well as the aggressiveness of the disease. Not all prostate cancers are the same as some grow more slowly or aggressively than others. Carefully watching (active surveillance) can be useful in men with very early stage prostate cancer.
When treatment is required, the two principle options are radiation therapy and the surgical removal of the prostate, which is the most effective option. Prostate surgery is currently performed using the less invasive technique of robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery.
Discussion topics for you and your doctor
Here are several questions you can ask your doctor to determine if you are at risk for prostate cancer and if screening is right for you:
• What is my risk for prostate cancer?
• At what age should I start to think about screening?
• If I get my PSA test, and it is not normal, what other things could I have besides prostate cancer?
• What are the treatment options, and what are the side effects or risks of each treatment?
If you are over age 50 or if you have certain risk factors, talk to your doctor about getting checked for prostate cancer. Leading a healthy lifestyle, eating right and eliminating smoking will not only help your heart, but your prostate will be grateful, too.