Maintaining good health is a lifelong process that should include taking a proactive approach with regular medical screenings. This is the best strategy for combating a disease that claims the lives of 26,730 males per year: prostate cancer.1 Each year, 161,360 men are diagnosed with this potentially fatal disease. Luckily, preventive health services provide an effective way to minimize the threat posed by prostate cancer.
The incidence of prostate cancer has declined 7.9 percent between 2009 and 2013.2 In addition, the survival rate has increased from 67.8 percent over the years 1975-1977 to 99.3 percent in the span 2006-2012.2 Researchers attribute these advances to several factors, including better treatments and changes in cancer screening protocols.2
What Is a Prostate Health Screening?
Routine prostate cancer screening often involves a simple digital rectal exam (DRE). A doctor examines the shape and size of the walnut-sized gland located around the urethra with a gloved finger inserted into the rectum. The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is another common screening tool.
Unfortunately, the PSA test has been linked to the overdiagnosis of prostate cancer, which frequently leads to unnecessary medical treatment.3 The PSA test should be considered as one tool in the testing process which includes a number of methods that physicians use to confirm a positive diagnosis. Others include:
Each of these tests provides valuable information about the current state of the cancer and the potential aggressiveness of the disease. This information allows a doctor to create an effective treatment plan.
Prostate cancer is the leading type of cancer that afflicts men, followed by lung and colorectal cancers.2 It generally develops slowly, so the chances of catching it at an early stage are favorable—this underscores the importance of regular screenings.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer often has few if any noticeable symptoms however, some may patients may present with symptoms which can help identify and better manage the disease. Others, seemingly benign, may escape the notice of the patient. The classic signs include:
These symptoms all warrant further investigation and testing. It is important to understand that some symptoms may point to other conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. Nevertheless, it’s essential to contact your doctor for further diagnosis.
Causes of Prostate Cancer
Many cases of prostate cancer are sporadic—i.e., without a clear cause—which makes it difficult to identify what brought it about in the first place. Acquired changes in the genes of an individual can promote the development of cancer; alternatively, other triggers like environmental exposure to radiation or known carcinogens may lead to a mutation that promotes the growth of prostate cancer.
Age is a major risk factor for prostate cancer, with 6 in 10 cases diagnosed in men age 65+.1 Excess weight and lack of adequate physical activity are other significant factors.4 Family history may play a role, as well. Evidence suggests that black men have more than twice the incidence of prostate cancer as white men.2
Treatment of Prostate Cancer
The treatment program depends on several factors, including the aggressiveness of the cancer and the extent to which it has spread. Any combination of the following may be part of a prostate cancer treatment program:
In some cases, the preferred course of action is to withhold aggressive treatment in favor of relying on periodic testing to see if the condition of the prostate worsens. Because prostate cancer usually grows slowly, many patients pass away from other causes before it becomes necessary to seek treatment for this disease. A comprehensive diagnosis can identify what course the treatment should take to maximize the chances of a favorable outcome.
State of the Research
There are several lines of research that hold promise for improving the treatment of prostate cancer. Some of the main focus areas include:
Everything learned through research will help to shine a light on the path to a prostate-cancer-free world. For now, preventative care provides the best hope.
Don’t wait. Get the peace of mind you need. Call the office of Baylor, Scott & White MedProvider today at 469-701-9075 to schedule your prostate screening appointment.