If you are a man, there’s a good chance you will get a prostate cancer diagnosis at some time in your life. One in eight men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. That number is one out of every seven for African-American men. For many, it will stay at a low level that does not cause problems. But that is not the case for all men. It’s important to know the facts, find a doctor you like and trust, and stay in touch with your doctor about your prostate health. By talking about it, you can make informed decisions that help you take control of your health picture and deal with small problems before they become serious.
Early detection is key. “If you are diagnosed with early prostate cancer, it’s important to know your chances for a positive outcome are excellent,” said William See, MD, a urologic oncologist.
Ten tips to get you better informed about prostate cancer
- Prostate cancer doesn’t typically cause symptoms — unless it has become advanced, when men may experience trouble urinating, a slow urine stream, blood in the semen, pelvic area discomfort, bone pain or erectile dysfunction. If you experience any unusual symptoms, always see your doctor immediately.
- Many prostate cancers are survivable: Almost 100% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate gland or to nearby organs are alive five years or more after diagnosis.
- There are many effective treatments for men diagnosed with later stages of prostate cancer or cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland, including radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, targeted therapies, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and clinical trials.
- Prostate cancer screening, which uses a simple blood test and may include a digital rectal exam, can find cancer early.
- A risk associated with prostate cancer screening: The test result could be inaccurate or unclear, leading to unnecessary anxiety, another test, or a biopsy or treatment you don’t need. Talk to your doctor about benefits and risks before you decide to be screened.
- If you are African-American or are at high risk of developing prostate cancer, talk to your doctor about benefits and risks of screening starting at age 45. You’re at high risk of developing prostate cancer if one close relative (father, brother or uncle) had it younger than age 65.
- The rate at which African-American men are diagnosed with prostate cancer is 76% higher than for white men.
- Men who have an average risk of getting prostate cancer (and are expected to live at least 10 more years) should talk with their doctor about screening at age 50.
- Your risk of developing prostate cancer is even higher if more than one close relative (father, brother or uncle) had prostate cancer younger than age 65. If you are at even higher risk of getting prostate cancer, talk with your doctor about benefits and risks of screening at age 40.
- Prostate cancers grow slowly and some men may not need treatment other than regular monitoring by their doctor — an approach called active surveillance, which can involve tests or biopsies, or watchful waiting, which could mean fewer tests and monitoring changes in a man’s symptoms. If something changes, your doctor can consider your best treatment options.
Always keep the lines of communication about your prostate health open with your doctor. If you get diagnosed with prostate cancer, don’t panic or make quick decisions about treatment.
“Prostate cancer is a disease for which there is time to make an informed decision,” said Dr. See. “Do your research. Ask questions. In fact, I always advise patients to get a second opinion to make sure they have considered all their options. Collect as much information as you need to make sure you’re comfortable with the decisions you are making. Your outcome hinges upon your seeing someone who focuses their career on prostate cancer – and has access to the full complement of treatment choices that might apply to your individual circumstances.”
If you need a primary care doctor, visit froedtert.com/doctors. If you have a prostate cancer diagnosis and would like a second opinion, please call 800-680-0505. We’ll gather your medical records for you and coordinate all your appointments to make connecting with a specialist as simple as possible.