In recognition of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, program managers and leaders must help raise awareness about this critical disease within their communities. All men need to answer these vital questions: Am I over 50? Is there a history of prostate cancer in my immediate family?
Depending on their answers, they might need to get their prostates checked.
How Serious Is Prostate Cancer?
According to the most recent statistics, 28,343 men in the United States died from prostate cancer in 2014. That makes prostate cancer one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among men in the U.S. It usually occurs in older men (age 40 and over), and men over the age of 65 are most likely to be diagnosed. If a man has a first-degree relative (a father or a brother) with a history of prostate cancer, he is twice as likely to develop it himself.
However, even though prostate cancer is common, screening for it is not always advised.
Do All Men Need to Get Screened?
No. Unlike some other cancers, screening for prostate cancer isn’t always recommended because the risks of screening and treatment outweigh the benefits. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended against prostate cancer screening tests because:
- Often prostate cancer grows so slowly that men won’t die from it or have any symptoms.
- Treatment for prostate cancer is more likely to cause medical problems than prostate cancer itself.
- The available screening tests for prostate cancer can’t tell if you have a cancer that will cause problems or not.
Talk to your doctor to see if screening is right for you. Ask him or her the following questions to help you decide:
- Am I at risk for prostate cancer? (i.e., age 50 or older; black; have a father, brother or son with prostate cancer)
- What are the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening and treatment?
- What symptoms should look out for?
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Difficulty emptying the bladder completely
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away
- Painful ejaculation
How Will I Be Screened?
Men who decide that screening for prostate cancer is the right decision based on their symptoms and risk factors, they will receive one of the following tests:
- Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.
- Prostate specific antigen (PSA) test: Measures the level of PSA in the blood. Although the levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer, PSA levels may also be elevated with other conditions that affect the prostate.
To Screen or Not to Screen?
Since prostate cancer screening recommendations have changed, men around the world are breathing sighs of relief. They no longer have to suffer the yearly embarrassment of the dreaded prostate exam. However, due to the overwhelming prevalence of this type of cancer in the U.S., a man should always have his prostate on his mind. Encourage the men in your community to keep an eye out for any abnormal symptoms and talk to their doctors about anything concerning. A digital rectal exam might just be in their futures – and it could very well save their lives.
For more information on the various products available to purchase for your community, browse the QuickSeries® library of health guides, including Men’s Heath.