8 Things You Should Know About Prostate Cancer

September 26, 2019

In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. William Ross​ Green, Radiation Oncologist at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township, shared everything you need to know about the common disease, reminding men to get screened when it’s time.

1. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer impacting men in the U.S., aside from skin cancer. It’s estimated that around 174,000 new cases of prostate cancer occur each year, and around 31,000 deaths result.

2. All men are at average risk for prostate cancer. The strongest known risk factor is age (especially if you’re over age 50). Other prominent risk factors may include family history, race (African-American males are at a heightened risk and twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than white males), diet, and lifestyle.

3. The most common symptoms for early-stage prostate cancer affect the urinary tract. They may include: burning or painful urination, frequent urination, difficulty urination, loss of bladder control, blood in urine, blood in semen, and erectile dysfunction. In addition to these, warning signs for a more advanced stage cancer may include bone pain, leg pain and/or swelling, coughing/difficulty breathing, weight-loss, and fatigue. Sometimes, if the cancer is detected early, you may not experience any symptoms.

4. The most common diagnostic tests for prostate cancer include PSAs and DREs. A PSA (prostate-specific antigen) – most common test for average risk men – is a blood test that measures a substance naturally produced by the prostate. If a dangerously high level of PSA is found, it may indicate infection, inflammation, or cancer – in which case a biopsy may be needed for further diagnosis. A DRE (digital rectal exam) is an exam usually done during a physical, in which your physician inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to examine the prostate.

5. It’s essential to follow the screening recommendations. Men at an average risk for prostate cancer should consider screening at age 50. Men at a high risk should consider screening at age 45 (African Americans with first-degree relative cancer history); at an even higher risk, at age 40 (more than one first-degree relative, especially if cancer onset was early in life).

6. Diet and lifestyle changes may reduce the risk for cancer. In addition to regular screenings, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and implementing a diet low in fat and dairy products, and high in lean protein, fruits and veggies (especially cruciferous veggies, or ‘greens’) can be incredibly beneficial. For prostate cancer, tomatoes and other red foods containing lycopene are cancer-fighting agents. (However, keep in mind, there is no sure prevention method.)

7. Prostate cancer commonly grows at a slow pace, so it doesn’t always require treatment. Instead, these men would need active surveillance (continued diagnostic tests to see if the cancer is growing). For those who do require treatment, it may include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy or immunotherapy.  Treatment side effects depend on the primary intervention, but can include temporary worsening of urinary symptoms, erectile dysfunction, and gastrointestinal issues. Many health systems, like Jefferson, offer opportunities to participate in clinical trials to investigate novel treatments for prostate cancer.

8. Prostate cancer yields one of the best survival rates. Cancer outcome depends a lot on the individual’s anatomy, disease stage, and ability to undergo treatment. Studies have shown that for early-stage prostate cancers, the 5-year survival rate approaches 100 percent. For advanced stage cancers which have spread to other areas of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 30 percent.