(Good Things Utah) September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. More than 13% of men in the United States will get prostate cancer during their lifetimes, with about 2% to 3% eventually dying from the disease. Some men are at increased risk due to background or other factors, but the most common risk factor is age.

One of the possible benefits of screening for cancer may include catching those that are at a higher risk of spreading and potentially lowering the chances of serious or fatal complications.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate, which is a small organ in males located below the bladder and in front of the rectum, begin to grow out of control. As a man ages, the prostate tends to grow. In younger men, the prostate can be about the size of a walnut, but the organ usually increases in size as men age.

Though prostate cancer can cause many different symptoms, many prostate cancers are not associated with early symptoms or warning signs

What are some of the symptoms?

Some prostate cancer symptoms can include:

  • Painful ejaculation
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Back, hip, or pelvis pain that won’t go away

It can also cause both frequent urination and difficulty starting the flow of urination. It is important to remember that many of these symptoms occur frequently in men, especially older ones, who do not have prostate cancer.

There are also conditions of the prostate that occur either naturally or with increasing age that are not necessarily indicative of cancer. A couple of examples of these include prostatitis, inflammations caused by a bacterial infection, and an enlarged prostate

These conditions can be associated with symptoms that are very similar to those of prostate cancer, so it’s always important to talk to your care provider to see what may be causing them

What are prostate cancer survival rates?

  • According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rates for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 96.8%
  • It’s crucial to point out, though, that these numbers apply only to the stage of cancer when it is first diagnosed and do not apply if later the cancer spreads, grows or comes back after treatment
  • Survival rates don’t take everything into account. Factors such as age, overall health, test results and how well the cancer responds to treatment can all impact survival rates

What screenings or tests are best to diagnose prostate cancer?

The goal of screening is to find cancer early before it causes symptoms or has spread and is more difficult to treat and more deadly

There are two common tests widely used to detect prostate cancer.

A prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is a blood test that measures the level of PSA in the blood. The levels of PSA, a substance made by the prostate, can be higher in men with prostate cancer. High PSA levels can also indicate other, non-cancer prostate conditions, and can also be impacted by certain medications or medical procedures

A digital rectal examination, or DRE, is another common test where a health care professional manually checks the rectum for prostate abnormalities. As of 2018, though, the U.S. Preventative Task Force doesn’t recommend DRE screening, due to a lack of conclusive evidence of its benefits.

For men aged 55 to 69, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-based screening should be an individual one.

Men should discuss the potential benefits and harms of screening with their clinicians and decide based on their individual preferences. This should be based on family history, other medical conditions, and other factors.

Screening offers a small potential benefit of reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer in some men. But many men may experience harm from screening including overdiagnosis and overtreatment. And there are possible treatment complications, as well, including erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

Currently, the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends against PSA-based screening for prostate cancer in men 70 years or older.

How is prostate cancer treated?

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, choosing the right treatment can be difficult and your treatment options may shift depending on many factors, especially the aggressiveness and stage of cancer.

Sometimes people get a second medical opinion which may help in choosing the right treatment option for the individual.

Some common treatments include the surgical removal of the prostate, and active surveillance, or close monitoring of cancer.

Observation is another method and is sometimes used as a less intensive approach that will usually involve following the patient’s symptoms to determine if treatment is needed. Observation is often used in situations where the goal would be symptom control rather than cure of cancer.

Radiation, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy are other options.

In addition to discussing which treatment option is right for you with your doctor, make sure you get information on the side effects of potential treatment options. Side effects refer to how your body can react to certain drugs or treatments and may impact your quality of life.

To learn more and schedule with a medical professional, go online to OptumCare.com/UT, or for questions call them at 1-866-637-5268.

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