Prostate cancer remains the second most common cause of death from cancer among men.
In the UK it is estimated that there are over 40,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed every year; and the American Cancer Society estimates that in the US there were 220,800 new cases, in 2015 alone.
The signs every man should know about
The risk of developing prostate cancer increases significantly after the age of 65.
Many cases of prostate cancer are discovered during routine blood work that reveals an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level – a possible indicator of prostate cancer.
If you have any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor:
- Frequent urges to urinate, especially at night
- Difficulty starting urination or holding it back
- Weak or interrupted urinary flow
- Painful or burning urination
- Erectile dysfunction
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Recurrent, persistent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
Your doctor will probably carry out a rectal examination to check your prostate and may also recommend that you have your PSA level tested. If your test shows that your PSA levels are elevated, the next step will be a prostate biopsy – a painful procedure that involves a thin needle being inserted through the rectum (transrectal biopsy), through the urethra, or through the area between the anus and scrotum (perineum), to remove small samples of prostate tissue to be examined under a microscope.
However, be cautious because a 4-year study at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York City, concluded that an isolated PSA screening with an elevated level should be followed with an additional screening several weeks later before proceeding with further testing or a biopsy.
That’s because PSA levels can fluctuate and the results of a single test may not be reliable.
It’s important to know this before you agree to a prostate biopsy, because these biopsies can result in numerous unpleasant side effects ranging from infections to impotence.
When it comes to your prostate and the risk of prostate cancer, the keywords are “active surveillance”. According to the results of another study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, “watchful waiting” or “active surveillance” is not only a good idea after your first PSA test results but even after a prostate cancer diagnosis.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Intermediate and Longer-Term Outcomes From a Prospective Active-Surveillance Program for Favorable-Risk Prostate Cancer, published August 2015, American Society of Clinical Oncology
PROSTATE CANCER, SCREENING FOR PROSTATE CANCER, published online, mskcc.org