Prostate Cancer Awareness Can Save Lives
One of the most common cancers to be diagnosed in men, prostate cancer has a good prognosis when diagnosed early. Approximately 2.8 million men in the United States have prostate cancer. Raising awareness of this type of cancer is key in being able to detect this cancer early.
Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, which is a walnut-shaped gland that is responsible for producing seminal fluid. Some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need very little treatment while other types grow quickly and aggressively.
Unfortunately, in its very early stages prostate cancer has few symptoms. As the tumor grows, it begins to affect the body. These signs include:
- trouble urinating
- blood in the semen
- decrease in force of urine
- erectile dysfunction
- pelvic pain
Doctors and scientists disagree on when screening for prostate cancer should begin. Most recommend screening beginning at the age of 50, with screening starting sooner for those who have a history of prostate symptoms.
A digital rectal exam (DRE) can be a useful tool in screening for prostate cancer. A doctor will insert a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum. The rectum is adjacent to the prostate and abnormalities in the size, shape or texture can indicate the need for further testing.
A blood test for the presence of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) may also be done. Normally a small amount of PSA is in the blood of healthy men; a higher amount can indicate abnormalities with the prostate. The PSA combined with the DRE test has the highest rate of discovering prostate cancer in its early stages.
If abnormalities are found during screening, an ultrasound and a prostate tissue biopsy will be done to determine if the patient has prostate cancer.
If the cancer is slow-growing, no treatment may be necessary. Doctors will monitor the tumor to determine if it’s growing and if further action needs to be taken.
In cancers that are more aggressive, radiation to kill the cancer cells, hormone therapy to slow the production of testosterone or surgery to remove the prostate may be necessary.
The five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent. Ten years after diagnosis, almost 99 percent of patients are still living. After 15 years, this number drops to 94 percent.
These survival rates drop considerably if the cancer is found in a later stage, making early detection critical in saving lives.
Email from Hak Joo Choi