Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Nearly 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Thanks to research and innovation, prostate cancer is also one of the most treatable cancers. In some cases, the cancer doesn’t pose an immediate threat to patients due to slow growth. However, for some, the cancer can spread quickly and affect surrounding organs. Understanding the warning signs and risk factors is vital.
As with any cancer, early detection is key in increasing your ability to fight prostate cancer. To discuss the warning signs, we spoke with Suraj Singh, MD, a radiation oncologist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center at North Colorado Medical Center. He explained that early signs for prostate cancer can be subtle. Often, patients don’t feel symptoms until the cancer is more advanced. “It’s just as important to understand your risk factors,” said Dr. Singh, “so that you take steps to find the cancer before you ever start feeling its effects.”
Risk factors include age, family history, race, diet, race and other health issues. Banner MD Anderson recommends men start a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening at age 45.
Advanced prostate cancer symptoms
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may have a more advanced or aggressive prostate cancer. If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms and are concerned about prostate cancer, set up a visit with your physician to discuss screening options.
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination and dribbling
- Increased frequency of urinating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Lower back pain or bone pain, including the pelvis, hips or thighs
- Pain with ejaculation and/or blood in urine or semen
How is prostate cancer discovered?
You’ve probably heard stories about prostate exams. If the stories made you sit up a little straighter in your chair, then you probably heard about a digital rectal exam (DRE). Rest assured, stories are almost always worse than reality. During these tests, your physician will gently insert a gloved finger into your rectum to feel the prostate gland for irregularities. This test is an effective way to monitor changes over time but is not perfectly accurate.
The DRE is often combined with a prostate specific antigen test (PSA) test. This is a blood test that analyzes the amount of the antigen in your blood. While this is an effective (not to mention less invasive) method for screening, certain factors can influence your results such as age, race and medications. It’s a good idea to speak with your physician about which screening methods are best for you.
The power of early detection
Dr. Singh emphasized the importance of screening and early detection.
“Detecting prostate cancer in early stages can save lives,” he said. “Early detection can open up more options for treatment and has been known to produce success rates of more than 95% in low-risk cases.” Don’t wait to learn your risk. Meet with your physician or schedule an appointment with a Banner MD Anderson specialist to get started.