Prostate cancer is the second leading type of cancer in men, according to the National Cancer Institute. In fact, almost 14 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. But many men don’t get screened or don’t know they are at risk.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and Dr. Daniel Watson, who is affiliated with the Novant Health Multidisciplinary Cancer Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, explained some key facts you should know.
African-Americans generally have a heightened risk for being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“Nationally, the risk of developing prostate cancer and dying from prostate cancer is twice as high among African-American men as white men,” Watson said. “The data in North Carolina is consistent with those national findings.”
Other risk factors include having a family history or an immediate relative such as a father or brother who is diagnosed with prostate cancer and being age 50 or older.
Signs and symptoms
“Unfortunately, there often aren’t any signs or symptoms that indicate prostate cancer,” Watson said. “Sometimes if the cancer is more advanced, patients may have bone pain or difficulty urinating, but in most cases, there aren’t any signs for this type of cancer.”
Watson said because there aren’t definite signs, it is important for men to make sure they go to the doctor annually to make sure no hidden health problems exist.
A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate that may be present in the blood at elevated levels when a man has prostate cancer.
“Nearly 90 percent prostate cancers are detected because of an abnormal PSA test,” Watson said. “The rectal exam and the blood test are very simple.”
According to Watson, non-African-American men should have a PSA test done once a year beginning at age 50. For men who are African-American or who have a family history, they should have a PSA test done once a year beginning at age 40.
“The treatment is becoming less and less invasive with fewer side effects,” Watson said. “The good news is the five-year survival rate for those with prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent.”
Watson said the treatment can range from doing nothing to removing the prostate. It depends on the aggressiveness of the cancer, the patient’s age and any other medical conditions that are present.