Could it be Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer is the most common solid organ cancer in men over age 50. If caught early enough, with the right monitoring and treatment, the survival rate is about 98 percent and the 10-year survival rate is 80 percent to 85 percent, says Mark Delworth MD, Medical Director of Robotics at Bethesda North Hospital.
But, there's a catch. Prostate cancer often doesn’t present any symptoms.
Prostate Cancer: What is it?
Prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized structure that wraps around the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the body.
While there is isn’t a clear answer for what causes prostate cancer, we do know “the two biggest things are age and genetics,” Dr. Delworth explains. “The things that probably put you at a higher risk would be a family history, and the more the degree of relatedness increases, the higher your risk.” For example, if your father or brother had prostate cancer, this would put you at a higher risk than if your uncle or grandparent had it.
If Prostate Cancer is Primarily Asymptomatic, How Can I Catch it?
“In general, the most common symptoms for prostate cancer are none at all, and 80 percent of prostate cancer in the United States is found on the basis of an elevated blood test,” Dr. Delworth points out. “Guys come in, they get their annual physical, they get their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test – it’s elevated – and they get a biopsy, and low and behold, it’s prostate cancer.” PSA blood tests are routine at age 50 and older.
The symptoms below may present themselves if prostate cancer is at a late stage. However, it’s important to note that these symptoms can occur with other prostate problems, like an enlarged prostate, that aren’t related to cancer:
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Bone pain or tenderness, most often in the lower back and pelvic bones (only when the cancer has spread)
- Delayed or slowed start of urinary stream
- Straining when urinating, or not being able to empty out all of the urine
- Urinary leakage, most often after urinating
- Weak urinary stream
The Bottom Line: Talk to Your Doctor
"If there's one take-home message, it's talk to your doctor about PSA screenings," Dr. Delworth stresses. "Over the last 20 years we've had a 40 percent drop in cancer-related deaths for men who are screened."
Last Updated: November 11, 2013