Better awareness to prevent prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men with more than 2.5 million men currently living with the disease. Prostate cancer is also the second leading cause of death from cancer for men. It is important to raise awareness of prostate cancer, especially since it can be an uncomfortable topic. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so here are steps you can take to identify your risk of prostate cancer.

The first step to better awareness is to know the symptoms of prostate cancer. Patients may experience urinary changes, including increased frequency, weak stream or urgency, pain with urinating, erectile issues, blood in the urine or semen or hip or back pain. However, prostate cancer may also present no symptoms, so it is important to know your risk. Age, race or ethnicity, a family history of prostate cancer, diet, obesity and smoking can all affect the risk of prostate cancer. In particular, prostate cancer risk rises after the age of 50, but prostate cancer is extremely rare for men under the age of 40. In addition, African-American men have a higher risk of prostate cancer than men of other races. It is important to know your risk factors and talk with your doctor about the right time to have a prostate cancer screening.

A prostate cancer screening includes a complete history and physical exam to feel the prostate. It also includes questionnaires about urinary and sexual function as well as urinalysis and PSA (prostate specific antigen) tests. PSA is an enzyme made by the prostate and can be elevated with cancer, urinary symptoms, infection or enlarged prostate. A biopsy may be conducted if the prostate exam shows irregularities or PSA is elevated.

According to the American Urological Association, screening is recommended once every two years for men ages 55 to 70. However, based on your health history and risk factors, your doctor may recommend a screening earlier than age 55. Discuss with your doctor if screening is right for you, as there are risks associated with screening, especially if a biopsy is needed.

There is currently a lot of research underway in the field to improve prostate cancer screenings, improve our ability to determine which cancers will spread and which ones won’t, and better use of technologies like MRIs to both identify and help biopsy cancerous areas of the prostate. However, there is still much work to be done in the fight against prostate cancer.

While prostate cancer remains all too common, knowing you risk factors, the symptoms of the disease and the screening procedures can help you identify your risk. Schedule a visit with your local doctor who can help you develop a screening plan that is right for you.