Aside from nonmelanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States and is one of the leading causes of cancer death among men of all races. To give more insight on this disease, Serena Yang-Loudin, MD, a urologist at Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group in Sacramento, shared key information and advice around prostate cancer prevention and treatment.
Most at Risk
The main risk factors for developing prostate cancer include age and family history. Certain racial groups are also more susceptible to developing prostate cancer, including men of African ancestry. Additionally, men who have a family history of first-degree relatives with prostate cancer, are at an even higher risk for developing it.
Early detection is important. Localized prostate cancer is treatable and some slow-growing prostate cancer does not need treatment and can be monitored. However, metastatic prostate cancer (prostate cancer cells that are spreading to other parts of the body) is generally not curable. Dr. Yang Loudin shares, “When looking at screening and prevention, the most commonly used screening test is a blood test called the prostate-specific antigen test or PSA test. It has become controversial in recent years as results can be elevated due to many non-cancerous reasons, but it is still a good screening test.” She adds if there is cause for concern from results, there are additional tests that your physician can order to help guide next steps.
Dr. Yang-Loudin shares that she hears patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer constantly say, “But I feel fine, I don’t have any symptoms!” However, most prostate cancers are asymptomatic - meaning a person will not show symptoms — which is why it is important to get screened and to catch it early.
There is some controversy around at what age it is appropriate to stop screening. Some experts suggest there is no need for screenings starting at 70-75 years old. In addition, in men with numerous medical comorbidities whose life expectancy is less than 10 years, screening is discouraged, as most prostate cancers are slow growing, and screening these men will not necessarily benefit them. If you are over 70 years old, talk to your doctor about whether or not a screening is right for you.
If a test comes back abnormal, your physician may recommend a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure to remove small pieces of the prostate to look at under a microscope. If the biopsy shows there are cancer cells, then your doctor will discuss treatment options.
As shared by the CDC, prostate cancer treatment may include:
- Close monitoring and follow-up visits
- Surgery to remove the prostate
It is important to consider regular checkups and screenings, especially for those in high-risk groups. Consider speaking to your primary care provider about getting screened through a simple blood test, and if there are any concerns, you can be referred to a urologist and decide what the next best course of action is together. Shared decision making between you and your doctor is key in keeping well-informed and in taking ownership of your own health. Remember, early detection could save your life. Make an appointment to consult with your primary care doctor about a prostate screening.