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5 things to know about prostate cancer

Posted at 11:01 AM, Nov 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 11:45:47-05

There are about 191,930 new cases of prostate cancer each year and 33,330 deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men.

1. The prostate is a part of the male reproductive system, including the penis, prostate, seminal vesicles and testicles. The prostate is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra -- the tube that empties urine from the bladder. It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen. As a man ages, the prostate tends to increase in size. This can cause the urethra to narrow and decrease urine flow. This is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, and it is not the same as prostate cancer.

2. All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about two to three men will die from prostate cancer. The most common risk factor is age. The older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer. You are at increased risk of getting or dying from prostate cancer if you are African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer.

3. Symptoms:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Painful ejaculation

Keep in mind that these symptoms may be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.

4. Cancer screening means looking for cancer before it causes symptoms. The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find cancers that may be at high risk for spreading if not treated and to find them early before they spread.

There is no standard test to screen for prostate cancer. Two tests commonly used to screen for prostate cancer are a Prostate Specific Antigen and a Digital Rectal Examination.

5. Different types of treatment are available for prostate cancer. Some common treatments are:

  • Active surveillance: Closely monitoring the prostate cancer by performing prostate-specific antigen and digital rectal exam tests and prostate biopsies regularly, and treating the cancer only if it grows or causes symptoms
  • Surgery: A prostatectomy is an operation where doctors remove the prostate. Radical prostatectomy removes the prostate as well as the surrounding tissue.
  • Radiation therapy: Using high-energy rays, similar to X-rays, to kill the cancer.
  • There are two types of radiation therapy:
  • - External radiation therapy. A machine outside the body directs radiation at the cancer cells
  • - Internal radiation therapy. Radioactive seeds or pellets are surgically placed into or near the cancer to destroy the cancer cells

Information courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control