Understanding Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. It starts in the prostate gland, which is a small walnut-shaped gland that is responsible for the production of seminal fluid. Prostate cancer is often a slow growing disease, but in some cases and depending on certain risk factors, it can be an aggressive disease and spread rather quickly. When prostate cancer is identified early and is still confined to the prostate gland, the cure rate is very high.


Key statistics:

·         It is estimated that in 2015 in the United States, there will be about 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer and about 27,540 deaths from prostate cancer.

·         About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.

·         About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

·         About 1 in 38 men will die of prostate cancer.

In the early stages of prostate cancer, men may not experience any signs or symptoms at all. However, when prostate cancer has developed into a more advanced stage, men may experience one or more of the following signs or symptoms: difficulty urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, blood in the semen, discomfort in the pelvic area, bone pain, or erectile dysfunction.

The best way to test for prostate cancer is with a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test and a DRE (digital rectal examination). Your doctor will also assess your risk factors such as age, race/ethnicity, and family history. If these tests indicate that prostate cancer may be present, the doctor will likely recommend a prostate biopsy.

It’s important to note that the PSA may be elevated for other reasons besides prostate cancer. Other things that cause the PSA to rise include:

·         Age - even without any prostate problems, your PSA levels can go up gradually as you age

·         After ejaculation or sex

·         After insult or injury to the prostate (i.e. riding a bike, having a catheter in, after a prostate biopsy)

·         Medications (i.e. Proscar, Avodart, Propecia – these may falsely lower your PSA than what it actually is)

·         Urinary tract infection - can irritate and inflame prostate cells and cause PSA to go up

·         Prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland)

·         Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – aka enlarged prostate

Risk factors for prostate cancer:

·         Age – After 50, the risk for prostate cancer greatly increases. However, men as young as 40 can get prostate cancer, and it is often more aggressive. Men should begin screening for prostate cancer at age 40.

·         Race – African-American men have the highest risk for prostate cancer; they are more likely to have aggressive cancer, be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and die from the disease. African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men and are nearly 2.4 times as likely to die from the disease.

·         Family history – Men who have had a brother or father with prostate cancer are twice as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

·         Diet – A diet high in fat or being obese may increase your risk for prostate cancer.