According to statistics from The American Cancer Society it’s estimated that there are more than 2.5 million men in the United States living with prostate cancer. The disease is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States second only to lung cancer. One in seven men will be diagnosed with the disease sometime during his lifetime and only 1 in 38 will die from the disease. In 2015 alone there have been about 220,800 newly reported cases of prostate cancer. Below are facts about prostate cancer that all men should be aware of to give them a better understanding of the disease.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
In the earliest stages of the disease prostate cancer may not show any discernible symptoms. In the more advanced stages some common symptoms include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Increased frequency of urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Weak urinary stream
How is prostate cancer screened?
A Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening is a blood test used to detect the amount of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland, is present in a patient’s blood stream. When the prostate gland is affected by cancer by either through infection or inflammation it will release higher levels of the enzyme into the blood. An increased level of PSA isn’t always a sign of prostate cancer
In addition men over the age of 50 should get a digital rectal exam (DRE) as part of their annual physical as their risk for the disease increases with age. A doctor will physically insert a lubricated gloved finger into the patient’s rectum to check for any abnormalities of the prostate gland.
Your Gleason Score
The results of both your PSA and DRE tests are reported as a Gleason Score. The grading system helps a doctor to determine the severity of the disease. The higher the score, the more likely the cancer has metastasized into other areas of the body.
Understanding your score:
- 2 through five: Early-stage prostate cancer. At this particular stage of the disease, the cancer is localised to the prostate gland.
- 6 through 7: Intermediate-stage prostate cancer. Most prostate cancer is detected and diagnosed in this stage.
- 8 through 10: Advanced-stage prostate cancer. In this stage the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland (metastasized) into other areas of the body.
The following are the most common risk factors associated with prostate cancer:
- Age: The disease is most common in men over the age of 65. However a man’s risk for developing the disease increases after the age of 50.
- Race: Past studies have shown that the risk of prostate cancer is higher in African-Americans than with any other ethnic group. Reasons for this are still unknown.
- Family history: Men with a family history of prostate cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease.
What are the most traditional treatment methods?
There are a variety of treatment methods available to men with prostate cancer. Choosing which specific treatment is right for you will depend on several factors including your age, stage and grade of the cancer and your overall health. Treatments include:
- Radical prostatectomy: the complete removal of the prostate gland
- Radiation therapy: high-energy radiation used to shrink and kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy: drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells
- Hormone therapy: prevents the body from producing testosterone which tumors use to grow.
- Brachytherapy: radioactive seeds are placed in or near the tumor to shrink and destroy the cancerous cells.
- Cryosurgery: freezing tissue to kill cancerous cells
Not every man who is diagnosed with prostate cancer has to be treated for the disease. In many instances patients choose active surveillance as a means to manage their condition and symptoms. Any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition should always be discussed at length with your doctor.