For many men, prostate issues are just a normal part of getting older. In fact, due to hormonal changes, it is estimated that over 90% of men suffer from enlarged prostates by the time they reach 80. An enlarged prostate is often uncomfortable, but other prostate problems are more significant, and prostate cancer is a particular concern.
Erol Onel is one of many medical professionals concerned about the levels of prostate cancer in the US and helping to create treatments and improvements in the way that this disease is treated. Beyond treatment, an important part of the fight against prostate cancer is to raise awareness among men about the dangers – so in the spirit of aiding this challenge, here are some things that you need to know.
Prostate cancer is common
Prostate cancer is much more common than you think. In fact, it is the most common non-skin-related cancer in men, and as a cause of death in men, it is second only to lung cancer. According to studies carried out by the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there are around three million men in the US living with the disease, and over 27,000 die of it each year.
Catch it early
There is a misconception that prostate cancer is a benign cancer that grows slowly. This is not always the case. It is true that the cure rate for prostate cancer that is detected early is nearly 99%. However, with more aggressive prostate cancers and cancers that have metastasized, that survival rate drops significantly. Early detection is crucial.
As the early detection of prostate cancer is so crucial, many experts recommend that individual patients speak to their doctor and obtain a personalized assessment to determine the best time to have a prostate screening, rather than waiting for the standard examination at the age of 50. Depending on family history and certain risk factors, it may be appropriate to screen at an earlier age, and a proactive approach is best.
Don’t rely on symptoms
Sometimes, prostate cancer has symptoms, but these include fairly commonplace factors such as the need to urinate more frequently or erectile dysfunction, and can easily be mistaken for the onset of other conditions. If you do experience any of these symptoms, then it is important to consult a medical professional, but as prostate cancer often doesn’t come with any warning, screening should be carried out regardless of symptoms.
Screening tools are improving
There has been a lot of debate about the methods that are used to screen for prostate cancer. Traditional tests that focus on the levels of PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) will only show whether anything unusual is occurring with the prostate, not whether cancer is present. Standard prostate cancer biopsies take samples in a standard pattern rather than pinpointing specific tumors.
However, screening technology is improving all the time. There are a number of new tools being developed, including MRI-guided biopsies and blood tests. Whatever you may have heard about the effectiveness of prostate cancer screening methods, it is important to be proactive and speak to your doctor about screening.
Surgery or treatment is not always necessary
After prostate cancer diagnosis, the cancer is categorized for aggressiveness using something called the Gleason scale, in which a score of 6 or less is categorized as low risk, while 7 is intermediate, and 8 or higher is considered to be high risk. In the case of low-risk cancers, it is likely that since the cancer will grow so slowly, those diagnosed will not need to have treatment during their lifetime. In these cases, regular PSA tests and biopsies will be used, rather than surgery or more aggressive treatment, to monitor the disease.
A wide variety of treatment
Every individual man is different, and so the treatment plan in cases of more aggressive prostate cancer will vary from patient to patient. The treatment may involve some form of surgery to remove the prostate or destroy the tumor, or a combination of radiation, chemotherapy or hormone treatments.
Lifestyle changes may help
While age, race and family history are the most significant risk factors in prostate cancer, there is some evidence that lifestyle can play a part. Changing your lifestyle is not a substitute for regular prostate screening, but by quitting smoking, improving your diet and maintaining a healthy weight, you will be able to reduce the risk to an extent.
One of the biggest problems in treating male health conditions is that men are often reluctant to take their health seriously. That is why awareness is so important. Men who are fully aware of the risks of prostate cancer and the importance of early detection and screening will be in the best position to safeguard their own health.