For men, prostate cancer is the second-most common type of cancer, with approximately 1 in 9 men being diagnosed in their lifetime. Because of that, it’s important to know more about the disease, even if you don’t have a diagnosis right now.
Here are seven facts about prostate cancer that you may not have known.
- Prostate cancer has a high survival rate
- Prostate cancer symptoms are similar to other conditions
- Prostate cancer affects men of all ages
- Prostate cancer can be hereditary
- You may not receive treatment for prostate cancer right away
- African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than other races
- Your lifestyle choices impact your risk of developing prostate cancer
1. Prostate Cancer Has a High Survival Rate
The good news is that even though prostate cancer is common in men, the survival rate is high. In fact, 95% of all prostate cancer cases are detected while the cancer is still confined to the prostate. Not only is that easier to monitor, but it’s also easier to treat. Additionally, 99% of men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer survive at least 5 years after the diagnosis. While this is also good news, prostate cancer is still very serious. If not caught and treated early enough, it can spread to other parts of the body.
2. Prostate Cancer Symptoms Can Be Hard to Recognize
The symptoms that suggest prostate cancer can also be related to other diseases or conditions— and some can be so subtle that they go unnoticed until they cause more problems. Symptoms can include one or more of the following:
- Urgency to urinate
- Inability to control urine stream
- Sexual issues including pain when ejaculating and erectile dysfunction
- Blood in the urine or semen
Men who experience any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor to see if testing is appropriate, especially if they are 50 or older. If something doesn’t feel normal, it’s a good idea to be checked out by a doctor.
3. Prostate Cancer Affects Men of All Ages
Although 60% of cases are diagnosed at age 65 or older, that leaves the other 40% of cases among men who are younger! In younger men, prostate cancer is often more aggressive and more dangerous. These aggressive cancers can possibly spread to other parts of the body quickly, which causes many new problems. Because of this, men as young as 40 should know and pay attention to warning signs that could indicate prostate cancer. If anything seems abnormal, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
By age 50 all men should start prostate cancer screening. Screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society for prostate cancer are as follows:
- Age 50 for men who have an average risk of prostate cancer
- Age 45 for men with a high risk of prostate cancer (if you have an immediate family member under 65 that has been diagnosed with prostate cancer or you are African American).
- Age 40 for men with a very high risk for prostate cancer (if you have more than one immediate relative diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 65).
4. Prostate Cancer Can Be Hereditary
Age and lifestyle are both big contributors to the development of prostate cancer. However, studies show that a small percentage of prostate cancers are caused by an inherited gene that has mutated— specifically, the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, which is also the same gene mutation associated with some breast cancers. If you have other males in your family who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it is important that you monitor yourself closely and consult your physician to look for the signs of prostate cancer. This may include genetic testing, which can determine whether or not you are at increased risk of developing prostate cancer based on your genetic make-up. You can discuss genetic testing with your oncologist or a genetic counselor.
While the exact connection between the BRCA gene and prostate cancer is unknown, researchers have found that men with this gene mutation are at an increased risk of getting a prostate cancer diagnosis.
5. Treatment Isn't Always the First Option for Prostate Cancer
While your first instinct may be to treat prostate cancer after a diagnosis, it’s not always recommended at first, especially for men with the slow-growing type of prostate cancer.
In many cases, laboratory work shows signs of prostate cancer, yet the patient shows very little symptoms. In order to gather more important details as to the risk of progression and or the need for treatment, a biopsy may be needed. If the results show that the cancer is progressing slowly, your doctor may suggest that watchful waiting is an acceptable course of action. For patients who are advanced in age, rushing into treatment is not always the best option. It can put a large amount of stress on them and decrease their overall health. During this time your doctor is going to run tests periodically to watch for signs of growth. It’s important that you are also being watchful, alerting your doctor of anything out of the ordinary. At that point, your oncologist can decide the correct direction for treatment.
6. Race Can Influence the Development of Prostate Cancer
For unknown reasons, African American men are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men. Additionally, it is even less present among Latino and Asian men. Because of this, it is wise for African American men to be sure to have their regular prostate cancer screenings conducted.
7. Lifestyle Choices May Increase the Risk for Prostate Cancer
Diet and exercise both play a role in your risk for developing prostate cancer. For example, a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle and lack of nutritious foods can increase the chance of cancerous prostate cells, while staying active eating healthy foods may decrease the risk.
Even though prostate cancer treatment has advanced and the recovery rate is very high, men must be aware of potential warning signs. Family history, race, lifestyle, and age are all factors that can increase a person's risk for prostate cancer.
When you reach the recommended screening age, be sure to schedule regular checkups with your doctor. It might seem like a small thing since you’re not experiencing symptoms in most cases, but it can make a world of difference to your health and your family!