Every three minutes a man in the United States is diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although the cause of prostate cancer is still unclear, regular testing can detect the disease, making it easier to treat.
The prostate gland creates a fluid that is part of the formation of semen. About the size of a walnut, the prostate gland is located in front of the rectum, and physicians are able to feel it during a rectal examination. Prostate cancer has no symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms arise they can include:
- Dull pain in the lower pelvic area;
- Problems with urination, weakened urine flow, blood in the urine or semen;
- Painful ejaculation;
- Pain in the bones, lower torso and upper thighs; and
- Loss of appetite and weight.
After age 50, the likelihood of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer greatly increases. In fact, more than 70 percent of the prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in men over age 65.
Family history may also play a role in the risk of prostate cancer. A man’s chance of being diagnosed doubles if his father or brother had the disease. If several family members have been diagnosed, the risk is even greater.
Race is another factor linked to prostate cancer diagnoses. Though it is not known why, African Americans are diagnosed 70 percent more often than white Americans, and diagnosis of African Americans usually occurs when the cancer is in a more advanced stage.
Typically, men should begin testing for prostate cancer at age 50. However, those who are at a higher risk should begin being tested as early as ages 40 to 45. Two tests are performed to check for prostate cancer, and men should have these tests done yearly. A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test will show the levels of PSA in a man’s blood. PSA is made by the prostate gland. High PSA levels suggest that prostate cancer may be present. Sometimes though, men with normal PSA levels are diagnosed with the disease.
During the second test, a digital rectal examination (DRE), physicians are able to feel if the prostate is abnormal in some way, such as size or hardness.
Abnormalities in these tests do not automatically point to cancer. Often other benign conditions may be diagnosed, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a disease that causes the urethra to narrow and the prostate to enlarge, resulting in difficulty urinating.
If a slow-growing tumor is found, sometimes a patient will have the option to forego surgery. However, a recent study found that when prostate cancer tumors are left untreated, they become deadlier after 15 years.
In addition to screening, men can take precautions to prevent prostate cancer. One potential risk that can be controlled is diet. It is recommended that men eat at least five servings daily of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes of any kind (fresh, sauces, ketchup, etc.), pink grapefruit and watermelon are especially beneficial because they contain lycopenes, which are antioxidants, and have been linked to prostate cancer prevention.
Prostate cancer affects more than 230,000 men each year, but regular testing and healthy eating habits are important tools to fight the disease. If you have questions or concerns about prostate cancer, contact your physician.
By Axel Anderson IV, MD
Dr. Axel Anderson graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology/Zoology. After earning his Medical Degree at Ross University, he undertook his residency in General Surgery at University Hospital in Jacksonville. He then completed his Urology residency at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where he was named chief resident.
Dr. Anderson earned his board certification in Urology in 1992. His practice, Urology Associates of St. Cloud, opened in 2010 at 2900 17th Street, Suite 2 St. Cloud, Fl 34769. To schedule an appointment call 407-891-2951 or for more information visit StCloudPhysicans.com.