Prostate cancer is a serious issue for men's health, especially as they age.
Many cases of prostate cancer have no symptoms, at least not early on. Even frequent urination or a high PSA level can be misleading. Those issues can both be caused by an enlarged, but cancer-free, prostate. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, coming behind only skin cancer.
Because prostate cancer is so common, it’s important that people understand it. It impacts not only men, but also their communities.
Friends, families and co-workers all feel the impact of this disease.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland. It is located near the bladder and the rectum. Urologists deal with issues in this part of the body. As men age, their prostate gland often becomes enlarged. This happens to half of men by the time they reach their fifties. In a smaller percentage of men, the prostate develops a malignancy. Cells start to reproduce too much. Soon, they’re out of control, causing a noticeable growth. With time, the rogue cells can spread to other parts of the body, too.
There are several types of prostate cancer. The most common is the adenocarcinoma, which starts in the linings of the prostate’s tubes and ducts. Most prostate cancers grow slowly, and take a long time to spread. This means they are treatable, especially if they’re caught early. That’s why screening is so important. The average man has a 1 in 7 chance of developing prostate cancer. Typically, the cancer is diagnosed late in life. Screening involves a digital examination and a blood test for PSA (prostate specific antigen).
Because some prostate cancers grow so slowly, many doctors now advise watching and waiting for a period of time. In some cases, the growth is so slow that the risk of big problems is also low. Diagnosis is done by imaging or by biopsy. Treatments like radiation and drug therapies can have harsh side effects, but are effective for most prostate cancers, especially those that are diagnosed early.
A man’s risk level for developing prostate cancer is influenced by both heredity and lifestyle factors. Men whose fathers or brothers have had prostate cancer are at higher risk. They should begin screening at 40, not 50. The prostate cancer risk for African American men is twice as high as for white men.
But factors like diet and activity level also seem to play a role in the development of this cancer. By staying active and watching what they eat, men may be able to reduce their risk.