Facts Everyone Needs to Know About Prostate Cancer
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. This month let’s take time to learn about prostate cancer and how to support those who are affected.
Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in people with male reproductive systems. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and lies just below the bladder and in front of the rectum.
1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetimes. For Black men, it’s 1 in 6. Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms. So how can we detect and treat prostate cancer early?
Know Your Risk Factors
- Are you over age 50?
- Do you have a family history of prostate cancer?
- Are you of African-American descent?
- Do you smoke?
- Are you not getting enough exercise?
If you’re over age 50, it’s time to start being screened for prostate cancer. If you are African American or have at least one first-degree relative who has had prostate cancer, or at least two extended family members who have had prostate cancer, you should start being screened as early as age 40. If you smoke, are inactive, and/or are overweight, your primary care provider (PCP), may also recommend screening before age 50.
“About 11 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history, but knowing what cancers are in your family and other risk factors are important to determine when screening should begin,” said Lisa Russell, Chief Clinical Officer at Heartland Community Health Center.
“Although most prostate cancers are slow-growing, there are other forms that are more aggressive. Some prostate cancers are hereditary, and I recommend speaking to your PCP or an oncologist about genetic testing. Research also shows that breast cancer and prostate cancer may be linked, so it is important to know if breast cancer runs if your family as well.”
In addition to knowing your risk factors, you should be aware of certain symptoms that may be associated with prostate cancer.
Talk to your Primary Care Provider (PCP) if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Sudden urge to urinate and frequent urination
- Difficulty starting urination and/or completely emptying the bladder
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Blood in the urine or semen
- A pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
What is involved in a prostate cancer screening?
The PSA test is a blood test that measures how much prostate-specific antigen are in your blood. A digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening. If prostate cancer screening detects an abnormality, your PCP may recommend further tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is ultimately diagnosed with a prostate biopsy. The most common treatments for prostate cancer are surgery to remove the prostate and radiation therapy.
How can I prevent prostate cancer?
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- Keep physically active.
- Follow a healthy eating pattern, which includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and avoids or limits red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, and highly processed foods. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, a large U.S. study found that men following a vegan or strictly plant-based diet were 35 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer.
- Have regular check-ups with your PCP
Not only is September Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, but it is also Prostate Health Month. If you have a prostate, make sure you know your risks and are taking steps to maintain your prostate health. If you don’t have a prostate, encourage your loved ones to know their risks and to have regular check-ups with their PCP.
People without health insurance are shown to be less likely to engage in preventative health measures. If you’re having difficulty accessing or affording health care coverage, Heartland Community Health Center offers primary care services using a sliding-fee scale, insurance eligibility assistance, and discounts for certain patients. For more information, contact Heartland at 785-841-7297.