Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in males in the United States. Most prostate cancer is very slow-growing and often brings about a few to no signs of problems until it is very advanced. While early detection can, of course, help to treat prostate cancer more thoroughly and effectively, there are mixed opinions about whether the benefits of prostate cancer screenings outweigh the risks. Read on to learn more about that, along with some other important facts about prostate cancer and awareness.

What Is Prostate Cancer?

The prostate is a small gland found only in males, located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate’s job is to create some of the fluid that makes up semen. Cancer can begin developing from overactive cell growth in the prostate. Most men with prostate cancer don’t experience any symptoms associated with the cancer, though late stages of cancer will sometimes bring about signs and symptoms. Most men who develop prostate cancer discover it before it spreads to any other areas of the body, and it’s extremely slow growth rate leads to more successful recoveries from the cancer than not. About 1 in 9 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, but only 1 in 41 will die from the disease. Today, there are nearly 3 million men who have been previously diagnosed with prostate cancer but who are surviving and thriving despite that diagnosis. For those diagnosed with localized or regional prostate cancer (that is, the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate or has only slightly spread to nearby areas such as lymph nodes), the five-year survival rate is nearly 100%.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Prostate Cancer?

Only men are at risk of developing prostate cancer, but the risk is higher for older men and for men of African-American descent. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 66 years, and very few men under 40 years of age are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Family history is another warning sign for prostate cancer risk. Although most cases of prostate cancer occur in men without a family history of it, that could be due to late or lack of detection of the disease. It is important to note that having a brother or father with prostate cancer nearly doubles the risk of a man developing it, and if a man has several relatives who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, he is much more likely to develop it as well. In terms of lifestyle and healthy habits, many have seemingly no effect on the risk of developing prostate cancer. Different studies have come to different conclusions, leading experts to believe that environmental and lifestyle factors have little to no effect on the likelihood of a man developing prostate cancer.

What Is So Important About Prostate Cancer Awareness?

Even though many men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer go on to lead long and full lives, it’s still incredibly important to be aware of the risks, symptoms, and treatment of prostate cancer. As with any cancer, early detection is key, and men should be proactive in their healthcare and wellness in order to stay on top of their health throughout their lives. Although only 1 in 41 men will die from prostate cancer, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, only after lung cancer. Knowledge is power when it comes to your health and wellness, and it’s important to stay informed in order to take the best care of yourself. Since some doctors have mixed opinions on the risk/reward associated with prostate cancer screenings, it’s important to be educated on the types of screenings available to you before you walk into a doctor’s office.

How Can You Prevent and Detect Prostate Cancer?

Preventing prostate cancer is primarily about getting regular screenings done. However, as mentioned above, there is some disagreement regarding prostate cancer screenings. The two most common prostate cancer detection tests are the PSA test and a digital rectal examination. The PSA test is a blood test that looks for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is a substance that your prostate makes. Elevated PSA levels may indicate cancer, but it can also mean something else that is far less concerning. If you elect to do a PSA test for your prostate cancer screening, know that a “positive” test result does not mean you have cancer, but you can expect your doctor to order more tests to confirm or deny an appropriate diagnosis. The second test is what most men are more familiar with, and that is the digital rectal examination. A doctor will put a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum and feel the prostate for abnormalities. While this test can be uncomfortable, it should not be painful and it shouldn’t last more than a few seconds. If your doctor suspects that something is abnormal with your prostate, he may order more tests to explore it further. Both of these prostate cancer screenings are pretty quick and simple, but they can both bring about inaccurate results. While minimal side effects are associated with both, they can lead to more tests with more severe possible side effects, which is why some doctors don’t recommend them for younger men or those without symptoms of prostate cancer. Especially since many men can live a normal and healthy life with untreated prostate cancer, it is sometimes advised to forego testing, particularly for much older men. Once men turn 50, however, it is recommended that they undergo either test to look for prostate cancer. Men with a family history or African-American men should be screened as early as age 40. It is important to note that sometimes, the risk of undergoing treatment or further testing can be more severe than the risk of living with prostate cancer. Therefore, it is important to discuss risks and benefits for your particular situation with your doctor.

In terms of prevention, there is, unfortunately, no way to guarantee that an individual won’t get prostate cancer. Most of the risk factors are based on age, race, and family history– none of which can be controlled. However, living the healthiest lifestyle possible is the best way to remain healthy and minimize your risk of getting any type of cancer, prostate included. Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet complete with fresh fruits and vegetables, remaining physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and consuming appropriate vitamins and minerals.

Going to regular checkups with your physician is a great way to ensure you are as healthy as possible throughout your life. At NCHS, our adult care services are available to anyone who wishes to utilize them. We offer affordable services for those with or without insurance, and we provide a number of adult care services to meet all of your healthcare needs. From treatment of sickness and injuries to wellness care and more, our large network of adult care services doctors will provide you with excellent care at an affordable price at a location near you. Our caring and compassionate staff strive to run every NCHS office with kindness, attention to detail, and the best quality care around. To schedule your prostate cancer screening or to talk to our doctors about the various testing or treatment options for you, come in today or give us a call to schedule an appointment.