Straight, No Chaser: Prostate Cancer
Men (and those who care for men – meaning everyone) should be knowledgeable about prostate cancer. I don’t mean physician-level knowledgeable, but there are just a few facts that you should know that are meaningful. We’ll cover those in this Straight, No Chaser.
Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. It is also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races. In 2011, well over 200,000 men in the U.S. were diagnosed with prostate cancer with almost 30,000 deaths. Approximately one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Here are some prostate cancer basics.
What’s the prostate exactly?
The location and function of the prostate was covered in this previous post.
Who’s at risk for prostate cancer?
- Age: This is simple. The older you are, the greater your risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Race: Prostate cancer is more common in certain racial and ethnic groups.
- Genetics: Your risk is increased, which is not the same as saying you’ll develop it if a family member has. This risk is twice to three times more likely if you have a father, brother or son who has had prostate cancer.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
It is of interest that a wide variety of presentations exists in those later diagnosed with prostate cancer. Some men don’t have symptoms (meaning it’s discovered on screening examinations), and other men present with several symptoms, which may include the following.
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Difficulty completely emptying the bladder
- Difficulty starting urination
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
- Pain or burning during urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
How Is Prostate Cancer Treated?
See the above chart for more detailed information. Optimally, treatment for prostate cancer should take into account
- Your age and expected life span with and without treatment
- Other health conditions you have
- The severity (i.e. stage and grade) of your cancer
- Your feelings (and your physician’s medical opinion) about the need to treat the cancer
- The likelihood that treatment will cure your cancer or provide some other measure of benefit
- Possible side effects from treatment
Different types of established treatments are available for prostate cancer, including the following:
- Closely monitoring the prostate cancer by performing prostate specific antigen (PSA) and digital rectal exam (DRE) tests regularly, and treating the cancer only if it grows or causes symptoms. This is known as active surveillance.
- Surgery to remove the prostate and or surrounding tissue. This surgery is called a prostatectomy.
- Radiation therapy with high-energy rays to kill the cancer..
- Hormone therapy perhaps could be named “hormone blocking therapy,” because these medicines blocks cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.
The next Straight, No Chaser will provide an update on prostate cancer screening recommendations.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have on this topic.
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