The light blue ribbons you see in September are for National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in America.
The good news is that more than 3.1 million American men are prostate cancer survivors.
However, almost 192,000 men – 1 in 9 men – will be diagnosed with it in 2020, second only to skin cancer. More than 33,000 men are expected to die of prostate cancer in 2020, second only to lung cancer as the cause of death among men with cancer.
Prostate cancer affects the tissues of the prostate gland. It usually grows slowly. The prostate is about the size of a walnut. It is just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It surrounds part of the urethra, which empties urine from the bladder. The prostate gland makes fluid that is part of semen.
What causes prostate cancer? That isn’t known, and there often aren’t any early warning signs.
“The problem with prostate cancer is that, really, there aren’t any symptoms of prostate cancer because it lives on the outside shell of the prostate,” says Dr. Heather M. Stefaniak, an Aurora BayCare urological surgeon.
“When it is advanced, you may see blood in the urine, difficulty with urination, but the problem with prostate cancer is that you really don’t see those until it’s advanced.”
A weak urine flow or frequent urination may be signs of prostate cancer. However, they also can be caused by prostate conditions that are not cancerous.
Researchers have pinpointed these risk factors for prostate cancer:
- Black men are more likely than white men to get prostate cancer, and they’re likely to get it at a younger age than white men. 1 in 6 Black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020.
- More generally, men younger than 50 rarely get prostate cancer. The risk increases as men get older.
- Most men with prostate cancer are 65 or older and don’t die from it.
- Men with a father, brother or son who’ve had prostate cancer have a higher-than-average risk of getting it, too.
- Testosterone treatments or vitamin E and folic acid supplements can increase the risk.
- A diet high in dairy foods and calcium may cause a small increase in the risk.
“Prostate cancer is very treatable, very curable when found early,” Stefaniak says. “If prostate cancer is found early, the potential for cure is very high, a 90, 95 percent chance of you being cured.”
The best way to be proactive about prostate health is to talk to your doctor about your risk factors, if any, and discuss whether you need screening tests.
The most common test is a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, which measures the levels of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. Higher levels of PSA may suggest a prostate problem. An abnormal PSA test may be followed by a biopsy to diagnose prostate cancer.