With September being Prostate Awareness Month, it’s important to know that as men age, they become more at-risk of developing prostate cancer. That’s why studies show prostate cancer is most common in, but not exclusive to, men older than 65.
“We don’t really know what causes this disease, but studies tell us a man’s age, family history and race – especially if you’re African American – strongly influence a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer,” said Dr. Farah M. Brasfield, regional chief of oncology with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
“Men of a younger age can still get prostate cancer, which is why it’s important to discuss testing for prostate cancer with your doctor,” Dr. Brasfield continued. “This is especially true since there typically are no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer. And, as is the case with other types of cancers, treatment works best with early diagnosis.”
Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s also one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races
What is Prostate Cancer?
Located just below the bladder, the prostate gland produces part of the fluid found in semen. In young men, the size of the prostate is typically that of a walnut. As men age, however, the prostate usually grows larger. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control. Because it often grows slowly, it can take years for the prostate to grow large enough to cause health problems.
“Believe it or not, most men are unaware they have prostate cancer until it’s detected during a regular medical exam,” said Dr. Brasfield said. “Symptoms often occur when men experience difficulty with urination.”
Dr. Brasfield urges men to see their doctor for a prostate checkup if they:
• Reach the age of 50.
• Urinate often, especially at night.
• Experience pain or burning during urination.
• Unable to urinate at all.
• Experience difficulty having an erection.
• See blood in their urine or semen.
• Have deep or frequent pain in their lower back, stomach, hip or pelvis.
How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed and Treated?
Although digital examination is an option, having a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is the most common way used to detect prostate cancer. A high level of PSA typically means a man is likely to have prostate cancer. Treatment depends on how far cancer cells have spread, a man’s age and general health. The cancer can be treated with active surveillance, surgery or radiation.
Although a man’s age increases his risk for developing prostate cancer, there are some things a man should keep in mind to reduce or delay the risk of developing prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, a man should:
• Eat healthy – at least 2½ cups of a wide variety of vegetables and fruits each day, including cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, which are linked to lowering the risk of prostate cancer
• Be physically active – Men who are physically active have a slightly reduced risk of developing prostate cancer
• Stay at a healthy weight – Though the connection to weight is unclear, men who are overweight have a higher risk of developing a terminal prostate cancer
“The good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable when detected early,” Dr. Brasfield said.
“I encourage men to open a discussion with their doctor on this topic during their routine annual physical.”