How Much Do You Know About Prostate Cancer?
September 17, 2021
Prostate cancer is a condition often heard about, but perhaps seldom fully understood. In recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we asked Dr. Brian DeCastro, Urologist at Fauquier Health, to answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning this common form of cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that is only found in men. It is located just below the bladder and just behind the pubic bone of the pelvis. It is an important reproductive tool because it produces some of the fluid during ejaculation which helps transport the sperm. It surrounds the urethra - the tube that carries urine and semen out of the body. It’s about the size of a walnut but tends to increase in size as men age.
What is prostate cancer?
With the exception of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, one out of every nine men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Prostate cancer is a very treatable cancer if caught early but it is still the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men (only behind lung cancer). That is why screening is so important.
Am I at risk for prostate cancer?
If you are a man and you have a prostate you are at risk for prostate cancer. It more commonly occurs the older you get. Those who are most at risk are patients with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men. It is important that screening start at a younger age in these high-risk groups.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Unfortunately there are not a lot of symptoms of prostate cancer. The majority of symptoms that get attributed to prostate cancer are typically secondary to an enlarged prostate (BPH). Part of the evaluation for any of the following symptoms would prompt prostate cancer screening:
- Difficulty with urination, including trouble starting or holding back urination, a weak or interrupted uninterrupted urine flow, pain or burning during urination, difficulty emptying your bladder fully, and frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Painful ejaculation
- Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that does not go away
It’s important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to prostate cancer and are often secondary to benign (non-cancerous) conditions.
Should I be screened for prostate cancer?
Screening for prostate cancer is a simple blood test. All men over 50 should be screened for prostate cancer. Those with a family history of prostate cancer and African American men should consider PSA testing at age 40. A discussion with your primary provider or urologist about the risks and benefits of testing is important.
Can I help prevent prostate cancer?
In general a healthy lifestyle is good for minimizing the risk of most cancers:
- A healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Eating more fish
- Avoiding trans fatty acids in foods
- Avoiding smoking
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Reducing stress
If you have any concerns regarding prostate cancer and its risks, symptoms and screening, have a discussion with your primary care provider or make an appointment with a urologist.
For additional information, check out Dr. DeCastro's mini Urology series on the Fauquier Health YouTube Channel.
If you would like to be connected with a primary care provider, call 540.316.DOCS or visit the Find a Doctor tab at FauquierHealth.org. For more information about prostate cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/ and www.pcf.org.