Prostate cancer may not only affect women but there’s always a possibility a man may suffer from it. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer affects 1 in 7 males and has the highest incident of all cancers in men.
Prostate cancer mostly affects men over the age of 65 but it can also affects those younger than 65 if they have a strong family history.
Four things women need to know about Prostate Cancer:
1. Not everyone with prostate cancer needs treatment
A study done at Harvard showed that around 70% of the men diagnosed with Prostate cancer had the low risk type – the cancer grows so slowly; all you need to do is to keep actively surveilling it. This type of Prostate cancer never becomes life threatening and may never need treatment. Their healthcare provider just does some tests regularly to check if the cancer doesn’t start progressing quicker than anticipated.
Most doctors will suggest for men to wait and watch instead of going for medical treatment or surgical intervention. Treatment may cause side effects such as impotence and leakage of urine and it doesn’t have any added benefits unless you are faced with the high risk type of prostate cancer that progresses very quickly.
2. Most men don’t have any symptoms
In early stages of prostate cancer men usually experience no significant symptoms. Symptoms usually appear once the cancer is advancing through its stages.
Some commonly experienced symptoms are urination troubles such as incomplete voiding, slow stream and increased frequence, blood in urine (hematuria) and difficulty achieving erection. In very late stages if the cancer has spread to bones, men can experience bone pain in the hip, back and chest.
3. All men should talk to their doctor about screening
The American Urological Association used to insist on regular screening for men over the age of 50 but now the guidelines have changed. Prostate cancer screening is necessary for those who have a strong family history or risk factors such as being an African American. Men should discuss with their primary physician if they need to undergo testing and how often should it be done. The test involves taking a blood sample and checking levels of Prostate-specific antigen. Even though the blood test isn’t huge invasive but it has a high rate of false positives that may lead to unnecessary biopsies to confirm the diagnosis.
Out of the men who have high levels of PSA, only about 1/4th of those actually have prostate cancer. And then the majority of those have a very slow growing type of prostate cancer. Since a better test to check for prostate cancer hasn’t come around, that is why most doctors say it’s best that most men should get tested after 50 and as early as 40 if they have risk factors.
PSA levels may not be a good definitive indicator of prostate cancer but it alerts your physician earlier on in the disease if there’s cause to worry. 4 ng/mL and under is considered normal. If it’s under 2.5 ng/mL then men can wait for 2 years to get tested again. 2.5-4 ng/mL test results will require you to check again in around an years time. On the 2nd check up the levels of your previous tests are correlated and if there’s a 0.7% or more increase, you may have to undergo a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis. Most times it turns out to be Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, a benign condition of the prostate-common in older males.
4. He can take steps to reduce the risk
If your man chooses to actively survey his disease he will have to see his GP very regularly and get his PSA checked. If a rapid increase is found he will undergo a biopsy. On the biopsy his cells will be examined and a Gleason score is calculated. A score of above 6 is indicative of surgical intervention.
There are several ways to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Eating a low fat diet, eating less dairy and drinking less alcohol are some ways shown by various studies that may reduce the risk for prostate cancer.
And to bust all the rumors- having more sex isn’t a risk factor for developing prostate cancer, nor is getting a vasectomy. Both these myths have been disproved by studies published recently.
Prostate cancer has a very good prognosis and is rarely a cause of worry. If a man you know has some of the symptoms described, he is more likely to be suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is a relatively benign condition that is much more common. Your GP will be able to differentiate the types by a PSA test and a digital rectal examination (DRE).