September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer diagnosed in men, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, after lung cancer. About one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
Experts from Intermountain Healthcare want men – and their families – to know about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for prostate cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, there will be about 174,650 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed and about 31,620 deaths from prostate cancer in the United States.
There are several risk factors associated with prostate cancer, including family history, race, and diet, but the most common factor is age. Prostate cancer occurs mainly in older men. About six in ten cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older.
While there are a lot of risk factors for prostate cancer, there are also good survival statistics associated with the disease. Survival rates for prostate cancer are very high, according to Dr. David Gill, an oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare.
More than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.
Although it is not known exactly what causes prostate cancer, some risk factors for developing it are:
- Older Age: Risk increases with age, particularly after 50. Approximately 65% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men older than 65
- Race: African-American men are more likely to die from prostate cancer than White men
- Family History: Prostate cancer can be hereditary from having a gene passed down from a relative or familial which can be due to genes, environmental exposures, and lifestyle. Risk is higher in men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer or a female relative with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome due to BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations
- Obesity: Some studies support eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits and avoiding eating foods high in fat. No specific vitamins, minerals, or supplements have been shown to prevent prostate cancer
- Agent orange exposure
Prostate cancer is a cancer that starts in the prostate gland. The prostate gland is about the size of a walnut or golf ball. It is found under the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate gland produces some of the fluids in semen.
Prostate cancer, especially in its early stages, may not have any symptoms.
When symptoms are present they may include difficulty starting urination, less force to the stream of urine, dribbling at the end of urination, needing to urinate frequently, urinating frequently at night, pain while urinating, blood in the urine or semen, difficulty starting or maintaining an erection, pain with ejaculation, pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis and upper thighs, or unintended weight loss.
There are two screening tests for prostate cancer: a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
Treatment of prostate cancer depends on many factors including your age, your overall health and the growth and spread of cancer when it is diagnosed. Some men who have slow-growing tumors may not need treatment right away and some may never need treatment. Other types of prostate cancer are aggressive and can quickly spread to other parts of the body and require treatment.
Common treatment options include watchful waiting or expectant management (regular testing and checkups to assess for new signs or symptoms), radiation therapy (high-energy x-rays used to kill cancer cells), surgery (having the prostate gland removed), hormone therapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiopharmaceuticals, and bone protective agents.
If men have any concerns about prostate cancer symptoms, they should talk to their healthcare provider.