Understanding Prostate Cancer

Jun 02, 2016

June is National Men’s Health Month. To celebrate we will be discussing topics that are specific to men throughout the month. What do Robert De Niro, Bob Dole, Arnold Palmer and Frank Zappa all have in common? We can assure you it isn't a good golf swing. These famous American men all had prostate cancer. 

With the exception of skin cancers, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. It is predicted that in 2016, over 180,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. While there is a 98.9% survival rate for prostate cancer patients, it is still estimated that approximately 26,000 men will die of the disease this year. So what exactly is prostate cancer, how is it found, what increases your risk and how is it treated?

Prostate-illustration-label.jpgProstate Cancer

Your prostate is located just behind your bladder surrounding the urethra. Its main purpose is to carry urine and semen out of the body. When malignant cells in the prostate gland begin to grow uncontrollably, it is considered prostate cancer. It is typically a slow-growing cancer and difficult to detect because it has very few symptoms.



  • Increased frequency in urination (especially at night)
  • Decreased or weak urine flow
  • Pain while urinating
  • Difficulty emptying bladder
  • Constant lower back pain


What increases your risk factors?


  • Race. Doctors are unsure why, but African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than white males to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. They also have a higher mortality rate from the disease.
  • Age. The older you are, the greater your chances are for developing prostate cancer. Typically, men are diagnosed after the age of 65, but it can also be found in younger men.
  • Genetics. If your father, brother or son have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are two to three times more likely to develop the disease.


How is prostate cancer detected?

There are two methods of screening for prostate cancer. The US Preventative Services Task Force, the American Urological Association and the American Cancer Society all have different recommendations for screening and testing. This is why it is important to discuss prostate cancer with your doctor and inform them of your medical history. Using this information, they will be able to recommend what is best for your health.

  • Digital Rectal Exam. A physical exam performed to feel for any abnormalities in size, shape or texture on or around the prostate.
  • Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. This is a blood test that detects levels of PSA in your bloodstream. High levels of PSA can be an indicator of prostate cancer.

If either of the two screenings show any irregularities, a biopsy would be ordered and performed. The biopsy will tell your physician if the cancer has traveled anywhere outside of the prostate gland. It will also tell them how likely it is to spread using your Gleason Score. These factors will help determine the course of action used for treatment.

What are treatment options?

Treatment varies based on the stage your prostate cancer has reached. Your physician could choose one treatment option or a combination. Options include surgery, chemotherapy, cryotherapy, hormone therapy and/or radiation.

Researchers are still trying to find new, more effective ways of screening for prostate cancer. Until further tests are discovered, keeping an open conversation with your family physician and paying close attention to any changes with your body is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself. For more information about prostate cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society at Cancer.org or call our office at 252.413.6202 and schedule an appointment with your doctor.  


Article Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Cancer Society