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Sep 18

Fast Facts about Prostate Cancer

prostate cancer awareness ribbon

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Prostate cancer begins when abnormal cells grow uncontrollably in the prostate– a walnut-shaped gland in men that produces fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Prostate cancer is extremely common and it’s important to know its symptoms and risk factors. New Jersey Hematology and Oncology outlines the basics of the disease below.

What are the symptoms?

In its early stages, prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms. A more advanced prostate cancer can cause:

  • Trouble urinating, such as
    • Difficulty starting urination
    • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
    • Frequent urination, especially at night
    • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
    • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis

What are the risk factors?

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Your age, family history and race affect your chance of getting the disease.

  • A man’s risk for prostate cancer increases with age. It is most commonly found in men older than 65, and rare in men younger than 40.
  • A man with a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease himself.
  • Prostate cancers occur more often in black men, and tend to be more aggressive, though doctors and researchers are not sure why.

Understanding Prevention, Screening, & Treatment

There is currently no proven way to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer, though a healthy lifestyle is a good start. However, the Mayo Clinic suggests eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising often.

Prostate cancer can be found early with a simple prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. However, there is debate surrounding who should be screened, and fear that we may be over-testing and over-treating the disease. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times explains, “not all prostate cancers are the same. While some men are diagnosed with a super-aggressive, lethal form of the cancer, many patients develop a cancer that hardly changes or grows at all.” In the latter scenario, surgery and radiation may cause undue harm.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your personal risk of prostate cancer and if screening is right for you. If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, treatment can include active surveillance, surgery, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy. You and your doctor will determine which option is best.