What You Need to Know About Prostate Cancer
Here's what most of us know about the prostate: Only men have prostate glands, a doctor should examine your prostate at some point and cancer can affect the organ. Other than that, many folks don't give the prostate much thought.
The problem? The prostate is the source of cancer for one in seven men and the second most common cancer among men. That's why it's important to learn more about your prostate and how to protect yourself from cancer.
What Does a Prostate Do?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder and surrounds the urethra (the tube through which urine and semen pass out of your body). The fluid it produces nourishes and transports sperm.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
In the early stages, prostate cancer doesn't cause any symptoms. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly, but as it progresses to an advanced stage you may experience signs such as:
- Frequent urination
- Weak urine flow
- Erectile dysfunction
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pelvic discomfort
These signs can also indicate other illnesses. If you have any of them, you should see a specialist in urological services (a doctor who focuses on conditions of the male reproductive system) for an evaluation.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Because prostate cancer has no early warning signs, it's important for men to get screened for prostate cancer, especially if you have risk factors like:
- Advanced age: Your risk of developing prostate cancer increases as you get older. Men ages 50 and older are at higher risk. Almost 2/3 of all prostate cancers are found in men over age 65.
- Being African-American: Prostate cancer occurs more frequently in African-American men – and they're more likely to have an aggressive form of the disease. "Interestingly African-American men have a much higher of prostate cancer than both white men and Asian men," radiation oncologist Dr. Sandeep Bhave, an independent physician who practices at the Franciscan Health Indianapolis Cancer Center, told RTV6 news. "For that reason, African-American men should discuss with their doctor about screening around the age of 45."
- Family history: If prostate cancer or breast cancer runs in your family, you may have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. "If you have a family history of prostate cancer, it’s prudent start talking to your physician about screening at age of 40," Dr. Bhave said.
- Diet: Men who have a diet high in red meat or high-fat dairy foods and low in vegetables and fruits may have a greater chance of getting prostate cancer. "If you have a high fat diet, reducing the amount of fats in your diet can also reduce your risk of prostate cancer," Dr. Bave said.
- Exposure to chemicals in the workplace. Men who were in contact with toxic chemicals at work may have a higher risk for prostate cancer. This includes firefighters. There is also some evidence that men who were exposed to Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War, might be at higher risk for prostate cancer. But the exact link is not clear.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Screening typically includes a rectal exam to feel for prostate enlargement and nodules and a blood test, called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
"In about 90 percent of cases, you can treat prostate cancer for a cure, and outcomes are very, very good," Dr. Bhave said. "There are many different treatment options for patients, including surgery, radiation therapy, hormonal therapy or a combination. For the vast majority of men, they should see their doctor for prostate cancer to be cured."
To learn more about your prostate and changes that happen as you age, watch our "Reasons to See a Urologist" video: