Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. The thing about most prostate cancers is that they grow slowly, and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. Taking a PSA test may help you determine whether you have a prostate health problem. Conventional treatment, however, can cause serious side effects, so take time weighing your options and asking a medical professional about prostate cancer and its treatment before you decide to get tested or treated.
More than 238,500 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. Most of these men will have to weigh a variety of treatment options and make a series of decisions about managing their disease.
Here is a list of frequently asked questions about prostate cancer.
Who has a higher risk for prostate cancer?
- Men who are 50 years old or older.
- African-American men.
- Men whose father, brother, or son had prostate cancer.
What is the PSA test?
- Your prostate makes a substance called prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
- The PSA test measures the PSA in your blood.
- Your PSA level can be high for many reasons.
What happens next if my PSA is high?
- Your doctor may repeat your PSA test.
- Your doctor may send you to a specialist (urologist) for more tests, like a biopsy.
- Tiny pieces of prostate tissue are removed using small needles and checked for cancer cells. Biopsies are the only way to know if you have prostate cancer.
What are my choices if a biopsy shows early prostate cancer?
- Watching it closely.
- Get PSA tests and biopsies regularly.
- Talk to your doctor if you have symptoms like trouble urinating, blood in your urine, or pain in your back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away.
- Getting other treatments after talking to your doctor.
- You may talk surgery to remove the prostate, radiation therapy, or hormone therapy.
- You may also talk about the side effects of treatment like impotence, loss of bladder control, and bowel problems.
Ten Facts About Prostate Cancer
- Around the world, hundreds of thousands of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year — but (at least in the developed world) most of them will not die of this disease!
- Men whose fathers or grandfathers, uncles or brothers have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are at higher risk than men with no family history of this disease.
- At least in North America and the Caribbean, men of Black African ethnicity are at higher risk for prostate cancer than Caucasians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians (but we don’t really know why).
- Two drugs (called finasteride and dutasteride) have each been shown to prevent prostate cancer for a prolonged period of time in about 25 percent of the men who take them, and these drugs have very few side effects.
- In its early and most curable stages, prostate cancer causes no symptoms at all.
- Every man should know and understand his risk for prostate cancer; the keys to risk management are regular physical exams and appropriate blood tests.
- Many men, particularly older men, with early stage prostate cancer may never need to be treated at all.
- There are many different ways to manage early stage prostate cancer, but there is no absolute proof that any one form of treatment for early stage disease is better than any other.
- Every form of treatment for prostate cancer has serious risks and serious possible side effects (from inability to control the need to urinate to loss of erections to deterioration of bone health).
- For any specific type of treatment, doctors with extensive experience using that treatment technique can reduce the patient’s risk for complications.