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What You Need To Know About Prostate Cancer

About 175,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, making it the most common cancer among men other than skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

It’s a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with this cancer do not die from it. It is treatable if detected early. There are more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed at some point who are still alive today.

So what is prostate cancer?

It is when abnormal cells in your prostate grow out of control. Prostate cancer cells can form a tumor in your gland and spread by breaking away from the tumor. They can travel through blood vessels or lymph vessels to reach other parts of the body. After spreading, cancer cells may attach to other organs and tissues and continue to grow to form new tumors.

Risks

It is not clear what causes prostate cancer, but we do know what factors can increase your risk:

  • Age – As men age, their risk of developing prostate cancer increases. About six in 10 cases are found in men over the age of 65.
  • Race – African-America men are 73 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
  • Family history – One in five men whose fathers or brothers had prostate cancer are more likely to develop the disease.

Symptoms

Prostate cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its early stages. Symptoms usually do not occur until the cancer advances and spreads outside the prostate gland. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with our team.

  • Problems urinating, such as a slow or weak stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night
  • Blood in your urine or semen
  • Trouble getting an erection
  • Persistent pain in your hips, back or other boney areas

Diagnosis

In general, prostate cancer screening is recommended beginning at age 50. Screening for men younger than 50 should be considered based on increased risk factors for prostate cancer.

Types of Screenings

  • PSA Test (Prostate-Specific Antigen): This is a simple blood draw from your arm to test your PSA levels. It’s normal to have small amounts of PSA in your blood, but higher levels indicate something may be wrong.
  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE): This is when the doctor puts a lubricated glove finger into the rectum to feel for abnormal shapes or thickness in the prostate. It only takes a few seconds.

If a PSA test or DRE is abnormal, your urologist may order additional tests, including a prostate biopsy to determine whether cancer cells are present.

Treatment

Prostate cancer is a highly treatable condition, especially if detected early. Depending on the grade or score of the cancer, there are several options to consider.

  • Active surveillance – This is when a patient’s PSA levels are monitored without providing immediate treatment. It is a safe option for patients without increased risks or spreading of the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy – There are two types of radiation therapy. Brachytherapy (or seed implants) and external beam radiation therapy. Both are administered by a radiation oncologist.
  • Surgery – This is when a urologist uses a robot to remove the entire prostate. We use daVinci® robotic surgery, which is more precise and there is less bleeding, less pain and quick recovery.
  • Androgen deprivation therapy – Also called hormone therapy, it is a simple injection administered at scheduled intervals. The goal is to lower levels of male hormones to make prostate cancer shrink or grow more slowly.
  • Chemotherapy – Generally reserved for patients with advanced prostate cancer, chemotherapy is the use of drugs that target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells.

Prevention

There is no guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer. Many risk factors (age, race and family history) cannot be controlled. But you may be able to reduce your risk by making healthy eating choices, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and following a few tips.

Is it time for a prostate exam? Visit www.northoaks.org/prostate to request an appointment with our board-certified urologists or to learn more.