WHAT IS THE PROSTATE?
The prostate is a gland found just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It wraps around a tube called the urethra, which carries urine and semen out of the penis.
The prostate gland normally tends to enlarge in the vast majority of males as they age. For many men, this growth can cause symptoms later in life. The growth is made up of non-cancerous tissue and is known medically as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH. BPH does not lead to cancer, but it can cause uncomfortable symptoms.
IS A PSA TEST REALLY NECESSARY?
Some researchers are concerned that prostate cancer can be so slow growing that the prescribed treatment and side effects are often worse than the potential consequences of inaction. However without a PSA test, it would be impossible to know if an early stage cancer will be slow growing or if it is a more aggressive type that can quickly become fatal if left untreated.
As urology specialists with a long and successful track record of treating prostate cancer, our doctors firmly believe that PSA screenings remain essential to managing prostate health. Only when a "normal" baseline reading has been established (preferably by the age of 50) can your doctor watch for any dramatic jump in PSA readings which could indicate the need for urgent action.
The earlier prostate cancer is found, the better the chances are that it can be treated effectively. If the tumor has not spread outside prostate gland, the chances are good for long-term survival. Once the tumor has spread, it is harder to treat.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER?
Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Prostate cancer begins inside the prostate and may grow to involve the entire gland. Eventually, it can also spread outside the gland or spread to other body parts. Some prostate cancers grow slowly, while others can move quickly to other parts of the body, especially the lymph nodes and the bones. This spread is called metastasis.
WHO GETS PROSTATE CANCER?
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among American men. The number of diagnosed cases has been increasing dramatically over the past decade, largely due to the growing use of a blood test (PSA TEST) that is widely used to screen for prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer affects thousands of lives. More than 180,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the U.S. More than 30,000 patients die from the disease annually.
Although it can happen to men of all ages, it is much more common in men over 50, and most common in men over 65.
Prostate cancer is most common in North America and Europe, and it is unusually prevalent in men of sub-Saharan African descent. Because it is usually detected in more advanced stages, African-American men have poorer survival rates than Caucasian Americans. Because of this, African American men are nearly twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as are white American men.
What causes prostate cancer is a subject of intensive research. It is likely that prostate cancer occurs due to many reasons. Predominately a disease of older men, the diagnosis of prostate cancer is rare before age 40 but increases dramatically thereafter. In the United States, it is estimated that one in 55 men between the ages of 40 and 59 will develop prostate cancer. This incidence climbs almost to one in seven for men between ages 60 and 79.
Worldwide, prostate cancer ranks third in cancer incidence and sixth in cancer mortality among men. There is, however, a notable variability in incidence and mortality among world regions. The incidence is low in Japan and intermediate in regions of Central America and Western Africa. The incidence is higher in North America and Northern Europe. Although some of these differences may be accounted for by differences in screening for prostate cancer and the risk of other diseases among world regions, it is likely that they can be accounted for, in part, by genetic predisposition as well as diet.
There are also ethnic determinants of risk. Blacks are in the highest risk group, the incidence in Caucasian and Asian men is considerably lower. In addition, blacks tend to present with more advanced disease and have poorer overall prognosis than Caucasian or Asian men. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are at an increased risk of developing the disease. The risk correlates with the number of first-degree relatives (father, brother or uncle) affected by prostate cancer and the age at onset. Men with a family history of disease may have a risk of developing prostate cancer two to 11 times greater than men without a family history of prostate cancer. There is also considerable evidence showing that prostate cancer is more common in men with a high intake of fat in their diets. Vitamin D deficiency may predispose men to prostate cancer. Conversely, a diet rich in soy, tofu and green tea may protect against prostate cancer.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
In its early stages, prostate cancer often causes no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may include any of the following: dull pain in the lower pelvic area; frequent urination; problems with urination such as the inability, pain, burning, weakened urine flow; blood in the urine or semen; painful ejaculation; general pain in the lower back, hips or upper thighs; loss of appetite and/or weight; and persistent bone pain.
Biopsy--CONFIRMING THE DIAGNOSIS
A diagnosis of prostate cancer is usually confirmed by a biopsy of the prostate gland. A biopsy is a test in which small samples of prostate tissue are removed and examined under a microscope. It may be done in the doctor's office and only takes a few seconds.
The tissue sample is sent to the lab to see if cancer cells are present. If cancer is found, further tests will be done to determine the stage of the disease. The stage of the disease indicates the local size or extent of the cancer and whether it is still confined to the prostate gland.
The grade of cancer is also important because it helps to determine whether the cancer is likely to be fast growing or slow growing.
Staging is the process of finding out how far the cancer has spread. It involves gathering information from several tests that may include a bone scan, a CT scan, PET scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and a biopsy of the lymph nodes.
It is very important to know the stage to select the right treatment. Men should ask their doctors to carefully explain what the stage of their disease means so they can make fully informed choices about treatment.
UCPA offers FREE Prostate Cancer screenings in all of our offices for men who have not had a baseline screening. Call any office to make appointment for a FREE PSA and DRE screening today!
Free Prostate Cancer Screenings
Urology of Central PA offers free prostate cancer screenings (PSA and DRE) for uninsured and under-insured men age 40 + who have not been screened within last year at UCPA offices. Please call to schedule an appointment at location most convenient for you: Harrisburg 717-724-0720 and Camp Hill 717-763-1174.
We also offer free screenings in the community during the year.
We will post future screening events here.