Increasing Prostate Cancer Awareness
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but for most men, the diagnosis is survivable. The disease, which occurs mainly in older men, happens when cancer forms in tissues of the prostate (a gland in the male reproductive system found below the bladder and in front of the rectum). Prostate cancer is usually a very slow growing cancer, often causing no symptoms until it is in an advanced stage. Most men with prostate cancer die of other causes, and many never know that they have the disease. But once prostate cancer begins to grow quickly or spreads outside the prostate, it is dangerous. Fortunately, about 85% of American men with prostate cancer are diagnosed in an early stage of the disease.
“We don't yet completely understand the causes of prostate cancer, but researchers have found several factors that increase a man’s risk of getting the disease,” says Joseph Motta, M.D., Director in Chief of Urology and Urologic Surgery at Richmond University Medical Center. “Men of African-American descent, as well as men with a family history of prostate cancer are at higher-risk.”
A risk factor is anything that may increase a person's chance of developing a disease. It may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many other things. Although these factors can increase a person's risk, they do not necessarily cause the disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop cancer, while others develop cancer and have no known risk factors.
Known risk factors for prostate cancer include:
Age: Prostate cancer is very rare in men younger than 40, but the chance of having prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men over the age of 65.
Ethnicity: Prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. African-American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage.
Family History: Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be an inherited or genetic factor. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man's risk of developing this disease.
Diet: The exact role of diet in prostate cancer is not clear, but several factors have been studied. Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products appear to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer. These men also tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. Research also suggests high dietary fat may be a contributing factor for prostate cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
There are no warning signs of early prostate cancer. Once a tumor causes the prostate gland to swell, or once cancer spreads beyond the prostate, the following symptoms may happen:
• A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
• Difficulty starting or stopping a stream of urine
• A weak or interrupted urinary stream
• Leaking of urine when laughing or coughing
• Inability to urinate standing up
• A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
• Blood in urine or semen
These are not symptoms of the cancer itself; instead, they are caused by the blockage from the cancer growth in the prostate. They can also be caused by an enlarged, noncancerous prostate or by a urinary tract infection.
Screenings & Treatment
“Risk for prostate cancer increases with age,” states Dr. Motta, “I recommend for patients to begin screening at age 50, and those with family history should begin at age 40.”
There are two initial tests commonly used to look for prostate cancer. One is the digital rectal exam, in which a doctor feels the prostate through the rectum to detect nodules. The other is a blood test used to detect a substance made by the prostate called "prostate-specific antigen" (PSA). When used together, these tests can detect abnormalities that might suggest prostate cancer.
Patients diagnosed with prostate cancer have many different treatment options. Treatment recommendations really depend on individual cases. In general, if there is a good prognosis and the cancer is in its early stages, all options can be considered.
Treatment may include watchful waiting, a single therapy, or some combination of radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, cryotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy. The choice depends on many things. Each has its benefits and risks. And no single treatment is right for every man with prostate cancer.
Dr. Motta recommends patients to consider the options in terms of: the grade and stage (severity) of the cancer, the patient’s age, lifestyle considerations, and other important factors. “A performance status determining the health of a patient is also an important factor in determining treatment options. I may recommend watchful waiting, where PSA blood levels are regularly monitored, for patients in the very early stages of this disease. Or I may recommend early treatment options, again depending on the overall health of the patient.”
Diet & Exercise
Choose a low-fat diet. In studies, men who ate the highest amount of fat each day had an increased risk of prostate cancer. While this association doesn't prove that excess fat causes prostate cancer, reducing the amount of fat you eat each day has other proven benefits, such as helping you control your weight and helping your heart.
Maintain a healthy weight Men with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher are considered obese. Being obese increases your risk of prostate cancer.
Exercise most days of the week Studies of exercise and prostate cancer risk have mostly shown that men who exercise may have a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
There's no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. Dr. Motta recommends that men with an average risk of prostate cancer make choices that benefit their overall health if they're interested in prostate cancer prevention.
For More Information
For more information or to schedule an appointment for a screening, please call 718-818-1234 or visit Richmond University Medical Center at 355 Bard Avenue, Staten Island, NY, 10310.
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