It happens all the time. A man gets older, but he doesn’t think he needs to be checked for prostate cancer. Even if his father or grandfather had prostate cancer, he feels fine, and does not see the need for yearly physical exams. However, the reality is that 1 in 7 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in his lifetime.
Across the board, the data show that all men carry some risk of developing prostate cancer. Family history and genetics are among the greatest risk factors—a man with a father or brother who had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. This risk is further increased if the cancer was diagnosed in family members at a younger age (less than 55 years of age), or if it affected three or more family members. Race and ethnicity likewise play a role—when compared with Caucasian men, African-American men have a higher incidence of prostate cancer, and are far more likely to die from the disease. Prostate cancer also disproportionately affects men over 65, and after age 69, the chance of developing prostate cancer is greater than any other cancer in men or women. For this reason, as the US population ages, we can expect to see an increase in the number of new prostate cancer cases every year.
When caught early, prostate cancer is effectively curable, with a 5-year survival rate of nearly 100%. Early-stage prostate cancer, known as localized prostate cancer, means that the cancer is confined within the prostate gland. Most patients will not experience any of the “classic” symptoms of the disease—including changes in urinary or sexual function—at this stage. This is precisely
why routine examinations are vital to a man’s health—they detect the cancer at a stage when it is unlikely to cause problems. By the time a man starts to exhibit symptoms, the tumor has often already progressed, spreading into the tissue surrounding the prostate or metastasizing to other parts of the body. Presently, there is no cure for metastatic prostate cancer, and this advanced stage of the disease is associated with increased suffering and risk of death.
Research over the past few years has indicated that lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, may mitigate some risk of prostate cancer, but the bottom line is that every man should be screened for the disease. The question of screening is a personal and complex one, and it is important for each man to talk with his doctor about how and when to start—and stop—screening.
For more information and prostate cancer screening, please visit us at www.pcf.org