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Contrary to popular belief, prostate cancer is not a disease reserved for the aging. While it is rare for a man under the age of 50 to develop prostate cancer, it is possible. Luckily, it is also treatable.
Since age is not the only risk factor for prostate cancer, it is important to know your risk. Your chances of developing prostate cancer increase with the number of blood relatives diagnosed with the disease, as well as the age at which they were diagnosed. Race is another factor. African American men develop prostate cancer more commonly than men of other races. Scientists are not sure why.
Because prostate cancer rarely causes any symptoms at an early stage, regular physical examinations with your primary doctor are recommended. While not all symptoms indicate cancer, it is important to discuss the presence of the following symptoms with your doctor:
If you notice other issues like chronic lower back or pelvis pain, unexplained weight loss, weakness in your legs or difficulty walking, you should call your doctor right away. Talking about your risk and symptoms with your doctor can help you both determine if further testing is necessary.
While no perfect screening test for prostate cancer exists, the prostate specific antigen – or PSA – test has allowed men to be diagnosed and treated at earlier stages of disease. The decline in overall prostate cancer mortality since 1991 is felt to be the result of prostate cancer screening and earlier treatment.
When it comes to prostate cancer screening, two tests are commonly used:
If either a DRE or PSA test indicates potential prostate cancer, your doctor will refer you to a prostate specialist called a urologist. They may discuss a prostate biopsy to determine if an abnormality or higher PSA level indicates cancer.
One thing to bear in mind with prostate cancer is that no one treatment choice is right for all men. Unlike some cancers, there are often several appropriate options to choose from. In some men with low-grade, low volume disease, it may even be appropriate to monitor instead of treat.
Treatment options can range from active monitoring to surgery or radiation, depending on the severity or advancement of the disease.
Prostate cancer can often be detected early and effective treatments are well known. With regular medical care, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer live into old age and do not die from this form of cancer.
Your chance of living a healthier life is enhanced by viewing your doctor as a partner. Not only is it important to discuss new or bothersome symptoms, including your prostate health, with your doctor, but also to schedule regular care checkups as well.
C. Dirk Engles, MD, is a urologist with St. Anthony Shawnee Physicians in Shawnee, Okla. For a referral to any SSM Health physician, call 1-866-SSM-DOCS (776-3627) or visit https://providers.ssmhealth.com/
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