Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, with the average age of men diagnosed at 66. About six cases out of 10 are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older. It’s a common disease that usually goes undiagnosed, as symptoms are often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to be educated and to know what to look for and the risks associated with prostate cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer only affects men and occurs when cells in the prostate gland begin to grow out of control and become abnormal. In most cases, prostate cancer is considered slow growing, meaning it can take years to become large enough to be detectable. There are some rare cases where the cancer is aggressive and requires urgent treatment. However, many men have had prostate cancer for years without even knowing it. This is one reason why men are often older when diagnosed with the cancer.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
There have been incidences where men have died from other diseases only to have had prostate cancer without realizing it. This is common for this type of cancer because many prostate cancer symptoms can be mistaken for another disease or condition. Common symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Difficulty urinating
- Weak urine flow
- Frequent urination often experienced at night
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in urine
- Persistent pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your provider immediately.
Prostate Cancer Risks
There are several risk factors that may increase your chances of developing prostate cancer. Knowing risk factors is important to take proactive steps and lead to early detection. There are three main risks for prostate cancer: age, race, and family history.
Age is the biggest risk factor for prostate cancer. The older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer. After the age of 50, your risk of having prostate cancer increases significantly. If you’re African American, your risk is also increased. Black men are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with—and 2.1 times more likely to die from—prostate cancer than white men. In addition to age and race, your family history is a risk factor. Men with a father or brother diagnosed with prostate cancer have a more than doubled risk of also being diagnosed. There is a significant link between family history and developing prostate cancer.
What Can You Do to Prevent Prostate Cancer?
It’s not necessarily what you can do to prevent prostate cancer; it’s more about what you can do to lower your risk of developing it. The best way to detect cancer is through prevention. Men should have routine screenings for prostate cancer – either through a rectal exam or a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.
In addition to receiving regular screenings, men should maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active. Studies have found that overweight men are at a higher risk for developing prostate cancer.
Men should also eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables. They should try to limit their intake of red and processed meat as well as dairy products.
If detected early, men have a five-year survival rate greater than 99 percent. Don’t neglect your health or disregard possible symptoms. Be proactive, get your screenings, and discuss any potential concerns with your provider. Remember, prevention is key!