Detecting Prostate Cancer Early: Signs and Screening

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Having cancer is personal for any patient. Cancer creates uncertainty and causes embarrassing side effects in both men and women. For men, this personal discomfort heightens with prostate cancer because of its invasive treatments. Still, loved ones should push the men in their lives to learn the signs and get screened for prostate cancer. These steps could save their lives.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer leads in cancer deaths among men, third in line behind lung and colorectal cancer. One out of every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in his life.

This year, doctors in the United States will diagnose over 150,000 new cases of the cancer, and about 26,000 people will die from it.

Fortunately, the majority of men will not die from prostate cancer. Its slow-growing nature increases a man’s chances of survival, and many men don’t even know that they have the disease.

Screening for Prostate Cancer

Because many do survive prostate cancer, living with it for years without effect, the prominent US Preventive Services Task Force has not recommended screening in the past. However, the task force stated a change of opinion in a draft recommendation on Tuesday, April 11.

According to the statement, new data indicates that the PSA screening test (prostate-specific antigen) does lower the number of prostate cancer deaths. The test can also identify the early stages of more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, increasing survival rates in these cases too.

Since screening for prostate cancer does come with risks, some authorities disagree on the PSA tests. Their concerns lie mostly with over-diagnosis, which can mean painful biopsies and treatments of unharmful forms of the cancer. These treatments often lead to incontinence and sexual dysfunction, causing pain and embarrassment for patients.

Although these doctors have legitimate concerns with over-diagnosis, men should still get screened for prostate cancer regularly. The PSA test itself causes no harm, and men can choose to closely monitor positive results with regular PSA screening. If the cancer does not grow or spread, patients don’t need to undergo treatment.

Signs of Cancer

In most cases, prostate cancer starts out as gland cells growing uncontrollably. This form, called adenocarcinomas, usually develops slowly.

Many do not even know that they have prostate cancer, and many men will never need treatment for it. Additionally, the more aggressive forms of prostate cancer don’t occur often.

Since prostate cancer often advances gradually, men do not usually see signs during the early stages. In the advanced stages, however, men may have bladder problems, including blood in urine. They may also experience erectile dysfunction and have numbness in the legs or feet.

Prevention and Early Detection

According to the American Cancer Society, men who maintain a healthy weight and stay active may have a lower risk of getting advanced prostate cancer. While studies on weight and health give a variety of results, it’s a good idea for men to exercise and eat a vegetable-rich diet anyway.

At the same time, women should push their partners to get tested for the cancer regularly, starting at age 55. Again, some men will want to avoid the subject because of its personal nature, and they may need a loved one’s motivation for screening.

The average age for a man to be diagnosed with this cancer is 66, and early diagnosis will increase his chances of survival. Studies suggest that even active monitoring gives men nearly a 100-percent chance of surviving at least ten years. Many will get prostate cancer during their lifetime; so all should be tested for it regularly.

Even though prostate cancer patients do have a high chance of survival, they should still undergo testing early on. As men get older, their chances of getting the cancer increase, and early detection is key. Men and the loved ones in their lives should take on the responsibility of screening and urge others to do the same.