After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. In 2017, the American Cancer Society estimates about 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed and about 26,730 men will die from it.
The good news is that survival rates for prostate cancer are high, but experts say there are several myths out there about how it’s diagnosed and treated, and how it may affect men’s health and sex lives.
To help you tell fact from fiction, Fox News sifted through the research and talked to some of the top prostate cancer experts to unpack the most common myths about prostate cancer.
1. It’s an old man’s disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, six in 10 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men ages 65 and older. Although many men think prostate cancer is something they need to start thinking about in their 60s, men as young as 40 are diagnosed with prostate cancer too.
What’s more, screening all men between ages 45 and 49 for prostate cancer can predict almost half of all deaths several decades later, a 2013 study in the journal BMJ found.
2. There are no symptoms.
It’s true that many men with prostate cancer may not have any symptoms, even for those who have metastatic disease.
Many symptoms of prostate cancer can also mimic other benign conditions like prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or an enlarged prostate, a urinary tract infection (UTI) or another type of cancer.
Nevertheless, if you notice urinary frequency, urgency, a slow or weak flow or an obstruction of the flow, blood in your urine or ejaculate, bone pain, or unexpected weight loss, you should see your doctor to be evaluated, Dr. Chung-Han Lee, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Westchester in West Harrison, New York, told Fox News.
3. Blood PSA levels are only one way to make a diagnosis.
High blood prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels usually indicate prostate cancer, but the only definitive way to diagnose it is with a prostate biopsy, Lee said.
4. You must start treatment right away.
If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer, your doctor will first determine the stage and your risk group — low, intermediate or high-risk — before deciding on a treatment plan. He’ll also take into account other conditions you may have, like obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as your smoking history, before deciding on the course of treatment.
If you have other medical problems but a low-grade prostate cancer, for example, your doctor may hold off on treatment. Yet if you’re otherwise healthy and have an aggressive form of prostate cancer, treatment may be done earlier.
5. Natural remedies can help.
Selenium, alkaline water, high-dose vitamin C, and even a combination of maple syrup and baking soda have been cited as ways to prevent and treat prostate cancer.
The thinking behind them is, “If you alkalize your blood then cancer has a hard time surviving because cancer cells love an acidic environment,” Dr. Geo Espinosa, a naturopathic and functional medicine doctor in New York City, and author of, “Thrive, Don’t Only Survive,” told Fox News. Yet experts agree there’s no evidence any of these can help.
6. Surgery will end your sex life.
Surgery will likely cause impotence at least initially, but most men will regain the ability to become erect with treatments such as Kegel exercises.
How the surgery will impact your sex life depends on whether or not your doctor has to remove the nerve bundles that run on either side of the prostate. “If they can save at least one of them, then they can still have erections, sometimes with assistance,” Lee said. Medications like Viagra or injections, or a a penile implant or pump can help.
7. Diet and lifestyle don’t matter.
You might think there’s no way to reduce your risk for prostate cancer, but diet and lifestyle actually play a significant role.
Diets low in carbohydrates and sugar like the Mediterranean diet, and moderate to vigorous exercise three to four hours a week have been shown to help prevent the disease.
It’s also a good idea to get 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure sans sunscreen on 40 percent of your body, or talk to your doctor about a supplement, as low levels of vitamin D may predict aggressive prostate cancer, a 2016 study out of Northwestern Medicine found.
Also, herbs like curcumin and boswellia lower inflammation and reduce biological markers that contribute to cancer, Espinosa said.
8. Treatment is a cure.
Within 10 years of prostate cancer treatment, 40 percent of the time PSA levels will start to rise again, Espinosa said. It’s also not uncommon to be diagnosed and treated for low-grade prostate cancer and years later be diagnosed again with metastatic prostate cancer.
If you’ve have prostate cancer, it’s important to be monitored roughly every three to six months within the first one to two years of treatment, After two years, you should get checked out every six to 12 months. If the PSA is undetectable after five years, you should be monitored every 12 months.
9. It’s fatal.
The risk that prostate cancer will be fatal depends on how aggressive it is and the other medical conditions you may have.
The good news is that for all stages of prostate cancer, the survival rates are high: The five-year survival rate is nearly 100 percent; the 10-year survival rate is 98 percent; and the 15-year survival rate is 95 percent.