Prostate cancer is one of the most common male cancers. According to statistics from the National Cancer Institute, in 2020 prostate cancer made up 10.6% of new cancer cases in the U.S.
This cancer affects the prostate gland, which is a gland involved in producing semen.
Signs and Symptoms
Early-stage prostate cancer often produces no symptoms. In the advanced stages, some symptoms may include:
• Difficulty urinating
• Frequent need to urinate
• Pain upon urination
• Pain when ejaculating
• Issues sitting comfortably because of an enlarged prostate
• Blood in semen or urine
• Erectile dysfunction
• Bodily pain in cases where cancer has spread to the bones
• Weakness in the extremities
• Loss of bladder or bowel control
Since prostate cancer doesn’t usually produce symptoms in its early stages, screening is recommended for males over 50 years old and males over 40 who have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Black males should start getting screened for prostate cancer as early as 40 years of age. If you fit the screening criteria, you should speak to a doctor to get information on the risks and benefits of screening.
Screening can help with early detection, which ensures prompt treatment of cancers like prostate cancer. However, screening tests are not necessarily 100% accurate. In some cases, early diagnosis through screening can lead to overdiagnosis and overtreatment.
There are two main ways that doctors screen for prostate cancer: through a prostate-specific antigen blood test or through a digital rectal exam. The American Cancer Society recommends yearly PSA screening for males with levels of 2.5 ng/mL or higher.
Other tests that can help detect prostate cancer include a transrectal ultrasound and a biopsy. A biopsy is the only way to confirm the type and presence of cancer.
Based on NIH statistics, approximately 12.2% of males will receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer in their lives.
There’s no definitive research pinpointing a cause for prostate cancer, but there are a few known risk factors for the disease, including:
• Family history. Males who have a close family member with a history of this cancer are at higher risk.
• Genetics. Some genes may increase a person’s risk of developing prostate cancer.
• Race or ethnicity. It’s more common in black males.
• Age. Males over 50 have a higher risk of developing this type of cancer.
Prostate cancer may also have a link with diet, smoking, obesity, STIs, or chemical exposure.
Thankfully, this cancer is slow-growing and largely responsive to treatment. Treatment for prostate cancer depends on its stage. When detected early, doctors may not do anything and opt to monitor whether the cancer grows.
Other options include:
• Surgery. Surgical treatment involves a prostatectomy, which is the removal of the prostate gland. Surgery isn’t typically done for advanced-stage prostate cancer.
• Radiation therapy. There are two types, including brachytherapy and conformal radiation therapy.
• Chemotherapy. This treatment is intended for advanced-stage prostate cancer when cancer cells have spread throughout the body.
• Hormonal therapy. Hormone treatment aims to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. It also may involve the removal of the testicles.
Doctors often opt for a conservative “wait and see” approach when prostate cancer is detected early because treatments have many adverse side effects. Removing the prostate gland, for instance, has an impact on fertility. Radiation therapy and hormone treatment can also affect sperm production. Males who hope to have children can choose to deposit sperm before treatment.
Prostate cancer has a five-year survival rate of 97.8%. When the cancer is localized and has not spread, almost 100% of people will survive at least five years. In cases where cancer has spread, the five-year survival rate is 30%.
Written by: Steph Coelho