Do you know what the most common type of cancer is for men in the United States, aside from skin cancer?
Here’s a clue: It affects a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system, responsible for producing fluid in semen. And it’s not always easy to talk about.
Know the answer? It’s prostate cancer, and impacts one out of every eight men, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Often, a person experiences no early signs or symptoms with prostate cancer. So it’s important to educate yourself, talk to your doctor about any concerns and make health modifications in your life to try and lower your risk. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so it’s the ideal time to dive into all of the above.
Who gets prostate cancer?
All men are at risk for getting prostate cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and some face higher odds than others. African-American men, for example, are more likely than other men to get prostate cancer—frequently at a younger age. And they are twice as likely to die from it.
The American Cancer Society lists a number of other risk factors for prostate cancer, including:
- Age; it’s rare before 40, and risks rise after 50.
- Family history; specifically, if you have a father or brother who had prostate cancer, you face a higher risk—as much as double.
- Gene mutations, such as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene; men with Lynch Syndrome also face an elevated risk for certain cancers, including prostate.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
As mentioned, in the early stages, a person with prostate cancer may notice no notable changes. As it progresses, however, Mayo Clinic says people with prostate cancer could experience a number of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty in urinating
- Changes in urination, such as decreased velocity
- Blood in the urine
- Blood in the semen
- Pain in the bones
- Unexplained weight loss
- Erectile dysfunction
Are there ways you can prevent prostate cancer?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, all men—including those at higher risk due to their age, race and genetics—may be able to reduce their chances of getting prostate cancer by making positive changes to what they eat, and how they live. Here’s how.
- Certain healthy eating habits may be helpful. John Hopkins Medicine lists those as reducing the amount of trans fat and saturated fats you eat; up your intake of fruits and vegetables; eat soy and drink green tea; avoid charring meat while frying and grilling.
- Healthy lifestyle choices may also aid in lowering your risk for prostate cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The organization recommends maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables and whole grains, while limiting red meat, processed foods and sugary drinks.
- And Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points to research that more frequent sex and ejaculation may also decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
Can you screen for prostate cancer?
According to the American Association for Cancer Research, screening for prostate cancer is effective, and often helps healthcare providers detect it before it spreads. That translates into strong survival rates.
A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which is a blood test is commonly used to measure PSA, which, at higher levels, could indicate cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that men ages 55 to 69 should discuss the potential risks and benefits of screening with their physician and make their own personal decision on the matter.
How is prostate cancer treated?
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, you and your doctor will be able to discuss a number of treatment options. Some, for example, may wish to wait and monitor the cancer to see if it will grow, says the CDC. Others might suggest surgery to remove the prostate or radiation therapy to kill the cancer. Other treatment possibilities include chemotherapy, cryotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and high-intensity focused ultrasound.
Prostate cancer is a scary diagnosis. But it’s important to know that it tends to be a kind of cancer that grows slowly, and may respond well to early treatment.
If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, or any other issues of concern, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss what you’re experiencing. He or she can try and help you understand what’s going on, and together, you can choose the next steps.