Did you know that June is Men’s Health Month? There are many health conditions that impact both men and women, like heart disease and high blood pressure, but there are risks unique to the different genders. For men, one of these risks is prostate cancer. Some fast stats about prostate cancer include1:

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men (other than skin cancer) with about 268,490 of new cases estimated this year.
  • About 1 man in 8 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
  • Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, after lung cancer.
  • Prostate cancer can be serious but the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it. More than 3.1 million men in the United States have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point and are still alive today.

Now that you have an understanding of the relevance of prostate cancer, do you know the answers to the top five questions about prostate cancer?

1. What is the prostate?

For starters, the prostate is part of the male reproductive system. The prostate is located just below the bladder, is about the size of a walnut, and its role is to produce fluid that is part of semen. As men age, the prostate tends to increase in size2.

2. What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer forms when cells in the prostate gland begin to grow out of control. There are five types of prostate cancer, with adenocarcinomas being the most common. Adenocarcinomas mean that the cancer develops in the gland cells, which in this case are the cells that make up prostate fluids3. The other types of cancers are rare but include3:

  • Small cell carcinomas
  • Neuroendocrine tumors (other than small cell carcinomas)
  • Transitional cell carcinomas
  • Sarcomas

3. What causes prostate cancer?

There is no concrete cause of prostate cancer but researchers have found some risk factors that may cause prostate cells to turn cancerous4. There are five main risks for prostate cancer5:

  • The risk for prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50 with 6 in 10 cases found in men over 65.
  • Race/ethnicity. Men from African American or Caribbean ancestry have a higher risk than other men.
  • Prostate cancer is most common in North America, Northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands.
  • Family history. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, with the higher risk occurring when a brother has this cancer.
  • Gene changes. Also called mutations, this risk factor is more rare accounting for a small percentage of cases overall. One example of gene mutation includes inherited mutations of BRCA1 or BRCA2 which are linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, but can also increase prostate cancer risk.

Other factors that can increase the risk of prostate cancer include5:

  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Chemical exposure
  • Inflammation of the prostate
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Vasectomy

4. What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

The symptoms of prostate cancer can vary, however, some men don’t have any symptoms at all. The most common symptoms include6:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Painful ejaculation

As with many conditions or diseases, the symptoms may relate to something other than prostate cancer, but the first step is to consult your healthcare provider.

5. How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

There are a few methods used to diagnose prostate cancer. The first includes a physical exam, which may happen during an annual physical or a specific appointment related to any symptoms you may be experiencing. During the physical exam, your healthcare provider will feel around for any bumps or hard areas on the prostate that could be cancer. After a physical exam, tests may be ordered with the most common being a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is a protein made by cells in the prostate gland and while PSA is mostly in semen, small amounts are also in the blood. Depending on the results of the PSA test, your healthcare provider may order a prostate biopsy and other blood or urine tests7.

Sources:

  1. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/what-is-prostate-cancer.htm
  3. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/what-is-prostate-cancer.html
  4. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/what-causes.html
  5. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/basic_info/symptoms.htm
  7. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html