September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer can occur at any age but is more prevalent among middle-aged men. In fact, it’s the second cause of cancer death among men. Although that’s a startling statistic, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially in its early stages, can survive it. That’s why detecting this cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is so important.
When to Consider Prostate Cancer Screening
Since prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, especially in early stages, the American Cancer Society offers suggestions on when conversations about prostate cancer screening should begin as a general rule.
When no symptoms are present, you should talk with your doctor about prostate cancer screening at:
- Age 40 for men at high risk (family history of prostate cancer, especially more than one close relative or African Americans)
- African American men are recommended to screen earlier due to an increased risk for prostate cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute and the American Urological Association, the risk of dying from high-grade prostate cancer is double for African American men than that of men of other races
- Age 50 for men at normal risk
If you do experience any of these symptoms, you should talk with your doctor right away:
- Back pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Blood in your urine
- Changes in your urine flow or frequency
- Pain while urinating
- Pelvic pain
Prostate Cancer Screening Tests
There are a number of tests available to help detect prostate cancer, including:
Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)
A DRE is a physical examination where your doctor will check your prostate for lumps (nodules) or anything unusual.
Prostate-Specific Antigen Test
This test measures the level of PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, in your blood. While a high PSA level can indicate prostate cancer, it doesn’t always mean you have it. An increased PSA level can also be a sign of infection, inflammation or an enlarged prostate.
Since the PSA test is non-invasive, it’s a great place to start. If your PSA level is high, you and your doctor can decide what further tests are needed.
If you demonstrate any signs of an elevated PSA or abnormal DRE, your urologist may recommend a prostate biopsy for pathological diagnosis.
Also, an MRI of the prostate may be recommended prior to the prostate biopsy.
Treatment for Prostate Cancer
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, your treatment type will depend on how advanced or aggressive your prostate cancer is. According to the American Cancer Society, treatment may include a combination of approaches, including:
- Observation/active monitoring
- Hormonal therapy
- External beam
- Brachytherapy (seeds)
- Robotic surgery to remove prostate
Feel Whole for Life
Learning more and talking to your doctor about prostate cancer will help you take charge of your health. If you’re in need of a primary care physician, learn more about our primary care providers at AdventHealth.
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