How Much Do You Know About Prostate Cancer?
August 31, 2018
Prostate cancer is a condition often heard about, but perhaps seldom fully understood. In recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Mark Head, MD, Internal Medicine at Spring Hill Internal Medicine at Clark Memorial Hospital, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning this common form of cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is only found in men, located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is an important reproductive tool because it produces some of the fluid (semen) that protects and nourishes sperm, and it surrounds the urethra – the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. It’s about the size of a walnut but tends to increase in size as men age.
What is prostate cancer?
With the exception of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one out of every nine men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Most men with the condition are 65 and older and do not die from it, although it is still the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men. The good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable when detected early.
Am I at risk for prostate cancer?
In short, all men are at risk, and the most common risk factor is age. As a man ages, his chance of getting prostate cancer increases. Beyond these basic parameters, African-American men and men with a history of prostate cancer in their family are at increased risk for developing the disease.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Symptoms can vary from person to person, and some men with prostate cancer will not present with any symptoms at all. Some signs to be on the lookout for include:
- Difficulty with urination, including trouble starting or holding back urination, a weak or interrupted uninterrupted urine flow, pain or burning during urination, difficulty emptying your bladder fully, and frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful ejaculation
- Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that does not go away
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss them. It’s important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to prostate cancer and could be caused by another condition.
Should I be screened for prostate cancer?
Before making a decision to get screened for prostate cancer, you should discuss with your primary care provider whether it’s right for you. You and your doctor should take into consideration if you have a history of prostate cancer in your family or existing medical conditions, and carefully weigh the pros and cons of screening based on these and other specific risk factors.
Can I help prevent prostate cancer?
While factors like age, family history and ethnicity are beyond your control, you may be able to help prevent prostate cancer through healthy lifestyle habits, including:
- A healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Avoiding taking more than 1,500 mg of calcium a day
- Eating more fish
- Avoiding trans fatty acids in foods
- Avoiding smoking
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Reducing stress
If you have any concerns regarding prostate cancer and its risks, symptoms and screening, have a discussion with your primary care provider.If you would like to be connected with a primary care provider, call 800.424.DOCS or visit clarkmemorial.org. For more information about prostate cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/ and www.pcf.org.