According to the
American Cancer Society, one in nine adult males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during
their lifetime. That’s why it’s so important for men to have
a regular screening test performed starting at age 50, or sooner if their
family history suggests it.
In recognition of
prostate cancer awareness month, here are four common questions about prostate cancer, tips on when to
schedule a screening, and why screenings are important.
Q: What is a Prostate?
A: The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland located below the bladder
and in front of the rectum. The urethra, which is the tube that carries
urine and semen out of the body through the penis, runs through the center
of the prostate. As men age, the prostate gland increases in size.
Q: What is a Screening, and Why is it Important?
A: A screening is a preventative measure to look for a disease or condition
before it causes symptoms in the body.
There are two types of prostate cancer screenings – the DRE (digital
rectal exam), which involves the physician using their fingers to feel
for enlargement or irregular shaping of the prostate, and the PSA (prostate
specific antigen), which is a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific
antigen in your blood. Both screening tests are routine and relatively painless.
Q: What are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
A: Generally, there aren’t any early warning signs of prostate cancer,
because the growing tumor does not push against anything to cause pain.
For many years, the disease may be silent, which is why screening for
prostate cancer is such an important topic for all men and their families.
Like many conditions, early detection can lead to successful treatment.
In rare cases, prostate cancer can cause symptoms such as:
- Needing to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty starting or holding back urination
- Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs
Men can experience urinary symptoms as the prostate enlarges with age,
but it is important to remember that urinary symptoms do not necessarily
mean you have cancer. Diseases such as
benign prostatic hyperplasia are benign diseases that cause similar symptoms. Regardless of what is
causing the symptoms, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms
mentioned, have them examined by your doctor.
Q: When Should I Be Screened for Prostate Cancer?
A: According to the
Prostate Cancer Foundation, prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer in U.S. men, and about
six cases in ten are diagnosed as cancer in men ages 65 and older. African-American
men are nearly 1.6 times more likely to develop prostate cancer and are
2.4 times more likely to die from the disease.
Screening for prostate cancer can begin as early as 40 years of age if
you have a family history, but for those at normal risk, screening can
begin at age 50. While there is some controversy surrounding, early detection
offers a better chance to cure the disease or, if diagnosed, it may inform
you that you may not need your prostate cancer treated at all.
What age to start screening depends on individual factors, but the following
ages are a common guideline for when to get screened.
- Age 40: If you have a family history
- Age 45: If you are African American
- Age 50: If you have no family history
- Age 55-69: Discuss with your doctor if PSA screening is appropriate
- Age 70 or older: PSA screening is not recommended
Participate in Prostate Cancer Awareness Month!
Join FMH and the Prostate Cancer Foundation this September to help raise
awareness of prostate cancer and the importance of screening and early
detection. If you’re 50, or fit the age and risk factor criteria
listed above, it’s time to schedule a screening.
cancer services section of our website for more information on prostate cancer and what
it means for you and your family.