Prostate cancer occurs on the gland when malignant cells form a tumor. You can also have a non-malignant tumor, so the presence of abnormal cells doesn’t always lead to or mean you have cancer.
In 2015, for every 100,000 men tested, doctors diagnosed 99 men with prostate cancer. Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is more prevalent and deadly than any other cancer. Early detection can be a key factor in defeating aggressive and non-aggressive types of the disease.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Doctors categorize cancer into two major types: aggressive and nonaggressive. Each type relates to how the tumor grows. Aggressive cancer, for example, multiplies rapidly and spreads to other areas of the body. Nonaggressive prostate cancer either doesn’t grow or does so slowly.
Noncancerous growths might not require treatment. However, your doctor and you should weigh the risks of removing it since these types of growths could develop into cancer or increase your risks.
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
• Urination issues, such as frequency, slower stream, or loss of pressure
• Loss of bladder and bowel function
• Blood present in semen and/or urine
• Erectile dysfunction
• Pain, weakness, or numbness in your feet or legs
• Pain in your hips, back, chest and surrounding areas; discomfort can radiate outward in advanced cancer that’s spread
Many of these symptoms can coincide or present like other non-cancer conditions. It’s best to have your doctor perform a physical exam or blood tests to rule out other contributing factors too.
Conditions that Mimic Symptoms of Prostate Cancer but Aren’t
- Enlarged prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Urinary tract infection
- Kidney stones
- Kidney infection
- Erectile dysfunction with another cause, such as diabetes or medication side effect
If you have any of the symptoms for prostate cancer or the medical conditions listed above, you should seek your health care provider for proper diagnosis.
Prostate Cancer Facts
- African-American males are at the highest risk.
- Screening is a blood test or a rectal exam.
- Having multiple first-degree relatives with prostate cancer puts you at the highest risk, and you should begin screening as early as 40 years old.
- Men without a family history or other risk factors generally start screening between 50-60 years old. Most medical professionals don’t recommend screening past 70-80 years of age.
- Screening can help prevent prostate cancer death since early symptoms are nonexistent. This alerts men and their doctors to the cancer’s presence, and they can develop a treatment plan.
- Roughly, half of all prostate cancer deaths are from men 80 years old or older.
- You can treat most forms of prostate cancer.
Who’s at Greater Risk for Developing Prostate Cancer?
- African American men with or without a family history.
- Caucasians and Hispanics have the next highest occurrences in the US.
- Anyone with a family history of prostate cancer
- Men with Lynch syndrome
- Men with mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes
- Risk increases with age.
Factors that might contribute to a higher prostate cancer risk include:
- Diet of red meat, calcium supplements, and dairy products
- Obesity can be a contributing risk factor in the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, according to scientists.
- Exposure to certain chemicals, such as Agent Orange, does show possible links to prostate cancer; however, other chemicals exist too.
- History of inflammation
- Sexually transmitted infections
In some cases, the science doesn’t agree or needs additional research. However, enough evidence exists for doctors and scientists to inform the public of the additional risk factors associated with the list.
For example, eating red meat and being obese doesn’t mean you will have or get prostate cancer. They might place you in a higher risk category. At the same time, someone in a low risk category, in perfect health, and following a healthy lifestyle can still have prostate cancer.
What are the Early Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer has no early symptoms. By the time you have symptoms, if it’s indeed cancer, it could’ve already spread to other parts of your body.
Some men might not have actual symptoms until years after their initial diagnosis too. This is why screenings can be important since it allows doctors and you more freedom in how to treat your cancer.
For some, you’ll choose a wait and see approach while others will require immediate treatment. It largely depends on your age and the aggressiveness of present cancer.
Doctors at the American Cancer Society recommend screenings, which helps identify prostate cancer in its earliest stage.
Should You Participate in Screening?
Prostate cancer screening isn’t without risks. However, with medical advances your testing options have expanded to include additional options:
- Prostate-specific antigen test (PSA): a blood test that looks at your prostate’s protein levels
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): a physical examination of your prostate
Recommended age ranges for prostate cancer screening:
- Age 50 and up, who doctors expect to live 10 years or longer
- Age 45 for high-risk men, such as multiple first generation prostate cancer history or African-American men
- Age 40 for extremely high-risk men, which includes men with first-generation relatives with prostate cancer at a young age
After Your Screening
Depending on your testing outcomes, your doctor might want to perform a MRI, CT, or a bone scan to determine whether you have cancer. In some cases, these tests show abnormalities in the prostate but you’re receiving the test for an unrelated condition.
A biopsy might also be necessary for proper diagnosis, which includes removing a tiny part of your prostate gland for a doctor to examine further. Your results receive a Gleason score, which pathologists use as a grading tool for cancer cells. The lower your number, the better your chances are that it’s not cancer.
If you receive a low Gleason score, your doctor might recommend repeating the test in another two years. At this point, they’ve ruled out prostate cancer as the cause of your symptoms.
Your doctor will speak with you about courses of treatment should your Gleason score return with a number of seven or higher.
There are no known ways to prevent prostate cancer fully. Age, race, and your genetics play a major role.
You can take steps to lower your risk factors. A proper diet low in dairy and red meat consumption, daily exercise, and other lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, is a good place to start.