Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland grow out of control. Only found in males, this small, walnut-shaped gland is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is responsible for producing the seminal fluid, which nourishes and transports sperm.
Many types of prostate cancer grow at a slow pace and are confined to the prostate gland, making it less dangerous than other cancers and have minimal treatment requirements. The death rate for prostate cancer is very low. In fact, over 3.1 million American men who had prostate cancer diagnoses are still alive today.
However, other types of prostate cancer may be aggressive and quickly spread. At an advanced stage, it may cause trouble in urination, blood in the semen and urine, weight loss, and erectile dysfunction.
According to the 2021 report of the American Cancer Society, about 1 man in 8 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer throughout his lifetime, and about 1 man in 41 may die from this cancer. In the United States, it is the second leading cause of death among males after lung cancer.
Despite comprehensive studies that have led to more precision regarding knowledge about this disease, prostate cancer remains the least talked about subject among different types of cancers. This is the reason why up until this point, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding it, including its detection, management, treatment, and complications.
This article aims to present facts about each of the most common myths about prostate cancer.
Myth 1: Only elderly men get prostate cancer
The risk of prostate cancer increases as a person gets older. Around 65% of the 165,000 prostate cancer cases account for men who are 65 years and older. While this is the case, the remaining 35% of these cases are diagnosed at a younger age—also called early-onset prostate cancer.
Around the world, there is an increasing number of early-onset prostate cancer cases in men 15 to 40 years old. The cause of this is not yet clear, but experts believe there are other risk factors to consider, such as family medical history, physical health, lifestyle, and race.
Just like other diseases, risk factors for prostate cancer include genetics. This means that having someone from the immediate family with prostate cancer doubles a man’s chance of developing this disease, especially if the cancer was detected among them at a younger age.
In terms of race, studies, although not yet proven, suggest that prostate cancer develops more commonly among African-American men or Caribbean men with African ancestry compared to other races.
Myth 2: A high PSA score means you have a prostate cancer
The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test is an FDA-approved method to measure prostate antigen levels. It is often used as the first step to diagnosing prostate cancer, especially at an early stage. An elevated result may indicate positive for prostate cancer, but this is always not the case.
The production of this specific antigen results from the prostate’s response to various problems, including prostate inflammation or infection (also called prostatitis), prostate enlargement, and, possibly, cancer. Additionally, other factors like a recent prostate biopsy, ejaculation, and vigorous exercise may also increase PSA levels.
Myth 3: Having no symptoms means you don’t have prostate cancer
Prostate cancers are highly asymptomatic, and the symptoms vary from person to person due to other disorders that the person may have. In most PSA-screened populations, men get confirmed diagnoses without showing symptoms. Even those with an elevated PSA plus a tumor confined to the prostate and not pressing on any part of the body may not show symptoms, but prostate cancer is discovered when sent for biopsy.
If the following symptoms are present, one should seek a physician immediately:
- Increased need to urinate frequently
- Painful urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine
- Pain or stiffness in the groin area
- Unexplained weight loss
Myth 4: Prostate cancer should be treated as soon as possible
Since prostate cancer is commonly detected at an early stage, the disease needs not be treated immediately in most cases. Although a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, this still needs to be assessed by the physician whether the cancer is aggressive or not.
The treatment options given to a patient depend on various factors, including health status, age, and possible side effects. Some wish to avoid major side effects like incontinence and erection problems from radiation and surgery treatments, while other men may be less concerned about the side effects and instead wish to get their cancer removed immediately.
One treatment approach may not apply to all cases, so an understanding of the complexity of the disease and taking the time to choose the proper treatment under the guidance of a medical professional are necessary.
To get help with treatment decisions, contact New Hope Unlimited Center for non-invasive treatment options.
Myth 5: Prostate cancer surgery causes impotence and incontinence
Unfortunately, two of the most common side effects of radical prostatectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the cancerous prostate gland, are impotence (erectile dysfunction) and incontinence (urine leakage). However, this is not always the case. For example, nerve-sparing surgery can help avoid erection problems as the surgeons can remove cancer without damaging the nerves running along the prostate gland. Those undergoing this surgery may recover their erection between four and twenty-four months. Urine leakage may also be experienced after surgery, but this normally occurs short term. Within twelve months, 95% of patients recover their bladder control.
For patients who continue experiencing incontinence or impotence, medications and devices are available to help address these. Irreversible erectile dysfunction may be avoided by resuming sexual activity not long after the surgery and through intracavernosal injection therapy. On the other hand, urinary incontinence requires pelvic floor exercises and collection devices during the first postoperative year.