Catch prostate cancer early, and get the best treatment

Thursday, March 9, 2017 12:20 PM
Dr. Charles Bellows

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month. This month serves to increase our awareness of the importance of prostate health and to help men who are living with the disease have a better conversation with their doctors about any symptom they are experiencing that may be related to prostate cancer.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, making prostate cancer the most common non-skin cancer among American men. In 2016, it is estimated that over 180,000 men will be diagnosed with, and about 26,000 men will die from, prostate cancer in the United States. Although aggressive subtypes of this disease can occur, the vast majority of prostate cancer occurs as an sluggish, slow-growing form of the disease. If diagnosed early and at a local stage, prostate cancer’s five-year survival rate is almost 100 percent. Therefore, it is important for men to stay informed with the latest news on symptoms, screening methods including the drawbacks and benefits to current screening tests, and treatment options through conversations with their doctors.

Men with prostate cancer have many options. The most important factor in determining treatment options and recovery is identifying the stage of the cancer. If prostate cancer spreads beyond the prostate gland, it significantly impacts one’s survival and quality of life. Therefore, diagnosing and treating the cancer at the earliest onset is critical for patients.

SymptomsIn many cases, some men may not have apparent symptoms at all in the early stages of prostate cancers. In other cases, men can have different symptoms for prostate cancer, any one of which may be caused by other conditions such as an enlarged prostate or swelling of the prostate gland. A few symptoms of prostate cancer that one should be aware of include pain during urination, difficulty or trouble starting urination, more frequent urination, especially at night, decreased or interrupted flow of urine stream, and blood in the urine or semen.

Risk factors

All men are at risk of prostate cancer. A recent study demonstrated that low-dose aspirin was linked to a modest decrease in risk for prostate cancer. However, in general, the older a man is, the greater his risk for getting prostate cancer. Aside from age, if one is African-American or has a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer, the greater their chance of developing prostate cancer. Recently, a population-based study linked high fat intake to prostate cancer aggressiveness.

ScreeningThere are two tests used to screen for prostate cancer: a digital rectal exam (DRE), during which a physician inserts a finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities; and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA screening, however, has several limitations. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer, but the PSA level may also be abnormal in other conditions resulting in additional test that are not necessary. It is recommended that men between the age of 50 and 69 years engage in a discussion of the benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer screening with their doctor so that an informed decision that is right for you may be made.

Treatment options

If prostate cancer is suspected, a prostate biopsy will be done. A biopsy is the only way to diagnose prostate cancer. Deciding what treatment to choose can be tough. There are many options available from watchful waiting, and active surveillance, to radiation therapy, cyrotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and even surgery.

Current level of evidence demonstrates that some prostate cancers grow so slow that immediate treatment may not be needed. But some grow faster. It is very important to get the right information about your type of cancer and how it is best treated.

For patients diagnosed with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer, several new drugs have become available that may provide a clear survival benefit but the optimal choice will have to be made on an individual basis. It is important to balance overtreatment against further progression of the disease since survival and quality of life.

No one treatment is perfect for every individual. It is important for you and your doctor to talk through which treatment is best for you. The options will, in part, depend on the stage and grade of the cancer. Age, general health status and lifestyle are other factors you and your doctor will discuss when deciding how best to manage your illness.

For more information contact your primary care physician or call Southwest Medical Group General Surgery at 970.565.6670. Visit