Early detection for prostate cancer

The second most common form of cancer among US men, early detection can save lives

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men.

This disease is most responsive to treatments in its earliest stages.

Routine screenings can help detect prostate cancer early. Experts recommend having a discussion with your primary care provider to understand if prostate cancer screening is right for you.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the growth of cancer cells in the prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located behind the bladder. It is part of the male reproductive system.

Who can get prostate cancer?

Men who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer are African Americans, those 50 or older (45 or older for African Americans), those who have a family history of prostate cancer, especially a father, son or brother with prostate cancer before age 65, and those with high fat diets.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

In the early stages, prostate cancer usually does not have any symptoms. The most common symptom of prostate cancer is trouble with urination. However, difficulty urinating does not mean you have prostate cancer. This could be a symptom of infection or Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH), a common issue in men over 50. If you begin experiencing issues with urination, make an appointment with your health care provider.

Should you be checked for prostate cancer?

If you are at average risk of prostate cancer, consider prostate screening starting at age 50. If you are at increased risk of prostate cancer and/or African American, consider prostate screening at age 45. African American men have a two to three times greater death rate from prostate cancer than American men of European descent. Before being screened for prostate cancer, talk with your primary care provider about the risks and benefits. Screening may or may not be right for you.

What tests are used to detect prostate cancer?

The two most common tests used to detect prostate cancer are the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam (DRE). PSA is a specific substance in the blood produced by the prostate gland. An elevated PSA level may indicate a problem with your prostate. The DRE allows your health care provider to check for suspicious lumps or feel for any changes in the prostate. Should there be any abnormalities with the DRE, or if you have elevated PSA levels, your provider will recommend further testing to make sure cancer is not present.

How can you lower your risk for prostate cancer?

Research is still being done to understand how to lower the risk for prostate cancer. However, research has shown that a “heart-healthy” diet is a “prostate-healthy” diet. Following these general guidelines may help with prevention:
  • Eat foods low in fat. Foods high in animal fat may increase your risk.
  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

What do I do if I am diagnosed with prostate cancer?

On average, prostate cancer grows very slowly, and there is no need to rush into making a decision about treatment. Talk with your health care provider about your specific type of prostate cancer and what treatment is best for you, taking into consideration you age, overall health and life expectancy.