Prostate cancer has always been a little bit uncomfortable to talk about, but as one of the most common forms of cancer among men, it’s never been more important to do just that.
If you want to learn more about prostate cancer or simply want to be informed for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, these are some key things we think you should know.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and is located just below the bladder. Out of all of the organs in a man’s reproductive system, the prostate is the most susceptible to cancer, which occurs, like any cancer, when cells grow at an uncontrolled rate.
If you’re a man, you are at risk for prostate cancer. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 13 out of every 100 American men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. In addition, the Prostate Cancer Foundation estimates that someone new is diagnosed with prostate cancer every three minutes.
There are some contributing factors — some controllable, most not — that can increase your level of risk, however. Here are some of the key factors that influence your level of risk:
- Age: The older you get, the greater your risk
- Race: African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer and twice as likely to pass away from it
- Family History: If someone in your family has had it, your risk level is higher
- Diet/Lifestyle: Though more research needs to be done to connect specific diet types to risk levels, unhealthy diets and lifestyles (i.e., smoking or obesity) may put you at a greater risk.
Unfortunately, prostate cancer symptoms are wide ranging and vary from person to person, and there may be no apparent symptoms at all. But the following symptoms are what the CDC notes as some of the most common:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Frequent urination
- Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
- Pain or burning sensation during urination
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
Screening and Treatment Options
Because symptoms and risk factors for prostate cancer vary so greatly, it might seem like it’s all bad news, but the good news is this:
Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not pass away because of it.
Early detection is the most important tool we have in the fight against prostate cancer, and it’s a treatable form of cancer if it’s detected early enough. According to the National Cancer Institute, a prostate cancer prognosis depends greatly on the stage of the cancer, as well as a patient’s age and whether or not the cancer is recurring or new.
Men who’ve experienced the symptoms outlined above are encouraged to talk to their doctor right away. But whether you’ve had symptoms or not, if you’re between the age of 55 and 69, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends you get what is called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which will measure the levels of PSA in your blood to help your doctor make a diagnosis.
As always, talk with your doctor about whether or not the PSA test is right for you, or if there are any other exams that should be considered.
By catching prostate cancer early, more treatment options are available, including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy, which improves a patient’s overall prognosis. Should you be diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor can give you his or her best recommendation for which treatments are best for you.
Support Prostate Cancer Awareness
Whether you’re a man or a woman, prostate cancer can affect you or someone you know. That’s why we’re joining with so many people around the country in recognizing Prostate Cancer Awareness Month this September.
Get involved by sharing the facts with others, donating your money for new cancer research, or simply using the #StepUp hashtag to spread awareness on social media — you might just encourage a man in your life to get screened. Every little bit helps, but it all helps in a big way.