Early detection is vital in treating prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in males. Prostate cancer develops in the small gland just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. This gland is where men produce seminal fluid involved in the production and transportation of sperm. Prostate cancer is usually a slowly-growing disease confined to the prostate gland. However, some prostate cancers grow more aggressively than others. The goal is to detect cancer early when there is the best chance for successful treatment.
Approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, making it the second most common cancer in American men, just after skin cancer. Estimates show there will be about 290,000 new cases of the disease in the U.S. in 2023 and about 35,000 deaths.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Like most diseases, prostate cancer can show itself through symptoms, especially in the later stages. But identifying prostate cancer by symptoms alone isn’t always effective, as some cases show few to no signs. Fortunately, prostate cancer is usually caught before it aggressively spreads, thanks to effective screening options and educational efforts.
What are the risk factors?
The cause of prostate cancer is largely unknown, but certain factors could increase the risk of developing the disease. These risk factors include:
- Age: as men age, their risk increases, with most occurring after age 50
- Family history: risk increases with those who have a blood relative with prostate cancer. Your chances of developing prostate cancer increase if your family carries genes that increase breast cancer risks (BRCA1 or BRCA2).
- Race: Black men have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer than other races. The reasons are still to be determined, but genetic and socioeconomic factors could play a role. Cancer is also more likely to be aggressive in Black people.
- Weight: Obese individuals could have a higher chance of getting prostate cancer than men at healthier weights.
What to know about screenings and prevention
Annual physicals and regular discussions with your doctor are the best line of defense for detecting and understanding prostate cancer.
For screenings, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test can help detect possible signs of cancer. Your doctor may decide to evaluate you further if test results are abnormal. Abnormal results don’t always mean cancer has formed in the prostate, and further testing might be necessary to rule out the disease. Additional tests could include a digital rectal exam, MRI of the prostate and further blood and urine tests.
Trying to prevent prostate cancer is the same approach as most other diseases, especially when it comes to lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, a diet full of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining a healthy weight are your best hopes for protection.
Knowing what behaviors to avoid to care for your overall well-being and prevent disease is important. Stopping smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation can also help decrease your chance of developing prostate cancer. Unhealthy eating habits could also put you at greater risk.
For more information on prostate cancer, screening options, and providers, visit pardeehospital.org.