Men's Health

The 411 on prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer the United States, other than skin cancer, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which reports that it affects one in six men. The American Cancer Society estimates that 240,890 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 33,720 men die from prostate cancer each year. To encourage awareness of prostate cancer, advocates often wear light blue ribbons. It is important for everyone to understand a few fundamental points concerning this disease: who is at risk, how to go about screening and what the symptoms are.

Prostate cancer
The prostate is important for reproduction and is located in front of the rectum beneath the bladder. The urethra travels through the prostate, carrying urine and semen out of the body. The prostate provides sperm with enzymes that help sperm reach and fertilize a woman’s egg. Even though the prostate contains various kinds of cells, the majority of prostate cancers begin in the gland cells, reports The American Cancer Society. The technical term for this cancer is adenocarcinoma. Prostate cancer typically spreads slowly. Some experts argue that the process of developing prostate cancer commences with little changes in the size of the prostate glands, referred to as PIN (prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia). Another sign of early development is ASAP (atypical small acinar proliferation), which is the appearance of indeterminately cancerous cells—these often signal that other definitively cancerous cells are present also.

High risk
The Prostate Cancer Foundation has outlined who is at the greatest risk of developing this terrible disease. More than 65 percent of all diagnoses are in men over 65 years of age. African American men are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasian men. Men with a history of prostate cancer in their family are two times more likely to develop the disease than men without a similar genetic inheritance. Men in northern cities are at a greater risk owing to the relative lack of sunlight, and therefore lack of vitamin D during the winter months.

Screening
Digital rectal exams can be used to detect prostate cancer because most prostate cancer develops in the anatomic region near the rectum. The American Urological Association strongly endorses prostate-specific antigen-based screening for possible detection. If you meet any of the criteria for being high risk—and even if you do not—you should discuss this process with your urologist. Usually, high risk men should start screening around age 40. For other men, 50 is a reasonable age to begin. The Project to End Prostate Cancer regularly offers free examinations. However you decide to proceed with prostate cancer prevention, it is important to have a proactive health plan that involves medical professionals and vigilance on your part.

Symptoms
According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, some symptoms of prostate cancer are a frequent need to urinate, difficulty starting or stalling urination, weak urine flow, painful urination or ejaculation, difficulty achieving erection, blood in urine or semen and recurrent pain in lower back and hips. If you experience any of these complications, you may want to consider visiting a medical expert. However, not all people with prostate cancer show any signs, making it crucial to have routine check-ups with your primary care physician to catch any life-threatening illnesses early.