Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Prevention
By Jane Meggitt
September is the time when workers celebrate Labor Day, students return to school and the autumnal equinox returns signaling the end of summer and autumn’s beginning. It is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, the odds are good of many more Septembers to come.
Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, healthcare providers work to increase public knowledge of prostate cancer and offer easy access to prostate cancer screenings. It is also a time to focus on further research on prostate cancer and prostate health, in general. You’re encouraged to wear a light blue ribbon to promote prostate cancer prevention awareness.
The prostate is a small, walnut-like gland located underneath the bladder and in front of the rectum. Its reproduction role consists of supplying seminal fluid accompanying the sperm created by the testicles and becoming part of the ejaculate.
Fortunately, most cancers of this gland are slow-growing. That means most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will eventually succumb to something else. There are aggressive forms of the disease. So, it is crucial not to wait too long to see a doctor once symptoms appear.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
While any man can develop prostate cancer, the disease primarily affects older men. A man whose father or grandfather had prostate cancer is at increased risk of the disease. Black men are particularly vulnerable because prostate cancer is more often aggressive or diagnosed at a later stage in this population. Obesity is another prostate cancer risk factor.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Early stage prostate cancer shows few symptoms. That is why regular screening is vital. As the cancer grows, symptoms may include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak urine stream
- Sudden urges to urinate
- Painful urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the back or hips
These are the most common symptoms. However, in more advanced cases, men may experience bone pain.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
While there is no sure way to prevent prostate cancer, there are steps men can take to lower their risk. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of regular exercise and avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. These actions improve overall health. However, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity contribute to prostate cancer development. So, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best ways to lower prostate cancer risk.
Prostate Cancer Diagnosis
Prostate cancer screening tests include a digital rectal exam. The doctor inserts a gloved finger into the patient’s rectum to detect any abnormalities in the gland. If such abnormalities are found, more tests are needed.
Men also have a blood sample taken for a prostate-specific antigen test. This test detects higher than normal levels of PSA which can indicate infection, a condition known as benign prostate enlargement or cancer.
Further testing for those with prostate abnormalities may include:
- Transrectal Ultrasound — This test creates an image of the prostate gland.
- MRI — An MRI creates a picture of the prostate in even greater detail.
- Prostate Biopsy — Using a thin needle, the doctor collects a small tissue sample from the prostate. The sample is then sent to a pathology lab to determine whether it contains cancer cells.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, the doctor will order further tests to see if the cancer has metastasized or spread. Such tests may include:
- Bone scan
- CT scan
- PET scan
Prostate Cancer Treatment
Many men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer do not need immediate treatment. Instead, they are placed “under surveillance” and visit the urologist twice yearly for check-ups.
Treatment depends on various factors including patient age and the cancer’s stage and grade. Since many prostate cancer patients are older and have other health conditions, their medical status might determine treatment options. Treatment may include:
- Surgical removal of the prostate gland
- Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy, or medication to eradicate cancer cells
- Hormone therapy to block male sex hormone activity
- Immunotherapy using the patient’s own immune system to combat cancer
There are other treatments currently going through clinical trials. It’s important to note some side effects. Prostate cancer treatment may result in urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction.
For 70 years, Yosemite Pathology and Precision Pathology has been a leader in advancing anatomic pathology. Over time, the practice has grown to include more than 20 board certified anatomic pathology specialists. We partner with UROQ™, the premier provider of urologic pathology services For more information about our services and partners, contact us today.
Jane Meggitt’s work has appeared in dozens of publications including USA Today, Zack’s, Financial Advisor, nj.com, The Houston Chronicle and The Nest. She is a graduate of New York University.
Prevent Cancer Foundation – National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month [Sept. 1-30, 2020]
Fred Hutch – What’s your cancer color?
Mayo Clinic – Prostate cancer – Symptoms and causes
American Cancer Society – Prostate Cancer Treatment