Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men besides skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Though it can be a serious disease, most men who are diagnosed do not generally die from it.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and now is a great time to do a little research and talk with your Provider about a PSA screening. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland begin to grow at an uncontrollable pace, and early detection is key in treating this disease. About 1 man in every 41 will die from prostate cancer, but more than 3.1 million men in the U.S. diagnosed with it are still alive today, the American Cancer Society reports.
Modern-Day Recommendations for Screenings
In the past few years, the formal recommendation for prostate screenings has changed.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force used to advocate for routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests for all men, but according to Dr. Hilton Ray, Family Practice Physician at Prowers Medical Center, annual PSA tests came with their disadvantages.
In fact, according to information from the Task Force, screenings only offer a small potential benefit of reducing prostate cancer-related deaths, and potential harms of screenings can outweigh the benefits. Potential harms include false-positive results that lead to unnecessary additional testing and prostate biopsies, overdiagnosis and overtreatment, and other complications from treatment, including incontinence or erectile dysfunction.
“We’re trying to isolate those who could benefit from the screening instead of screening everyone, which is what we were doing before,” Dr. Ray explained.
These are the reasons why the Task Force now recommends that prostate screening tests are something that a patient discusses with their trusted provider on an individual basis. Long story short: talk to your Provider to come up with a game plan regarding prostate cancer screenings.
“When a patient is over 50 years old, we start talking to them about risk factors and whether or not they want to have a PSA done,” Dr. Ray said. “We provide informed consent about this screening, what the alternatives are, what the risks are and any other options the patient might have.”
New Tests and Treatment Options
A few years ago, a new test to screen for prostate cancer was developed: the IsO PSA. Dr. Ray explained that the test is more specific than a traditional PSA and can reduce false positives by 45 percent, which is why it’s a good alternative to keep in mind. However, because it is so new, the cost and access to it can be prohibitive.
Before the IsO PSA was developed, he suggested patients who have a family history of prostate cancer or are showing symptoms could benefit most from traditional PSA tests. Moreover, Prowers Medical Center Providers look at a patient’s age, race and lifestyle to see if a screening could be helpful. If a patient is a veteran, exposure to Agent Orange also has been shown to contribute to prostate cancer.
“The majority of patients have a non-aggressive form of prostate cancer,” Dr. Ray explained. “A lot of urologists say men over the age of 70 with prostate cancer will most likely die from something else, because of the cancer’s slow growth.”
For men with more aggressive cancer, the stage and grade of the cancer ultimately determines treatment options, which could include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other typical cancer treatments.
Signs of Prostate Cancer
Men often don’t like to go to the doctor and may rather assume that urinary symptoms are a sign of a bladder infection or a kidney problem. While most cases of prostate cancer occur in men over 50, some younger men do get prostate cancer, which is why it’s so important to get checked out if you believe you’re showing symptoms.
While one in nine men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at some time in their lives, according to the American Cancer Society, that number increases in African American men, men with sedentary lifestyles and men older than 65.
Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Pain in your lower back, hips or thighs
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Erectile dysfunction
- Elevated prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)
“With most cases of prostate cancer, treatment isn’t immediately necessary,” Dr. Ray concluded. “Your Provider will encourage active surveillance, meaning they’ll keep a watch on it and make sure it doesn’t spread.”
Speak directly with your Provider about any of your questions or concerns regarding prostate cancer, and to find out if a PSA screening test would be right for you. For more information about family practice services offered at Prowers Medical Center Clinic or to schedule an appointment, call 719-336-6767.