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Prostate Cancer: What Men Need to Know

Age, Race And Family History Are Important Factors

Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the prostate, it is called prostate cancer. The prostate is a walnut-sized organ located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum in men. It produces fluid that makes up a part of semen.

Not counting some forms of skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, and second only to lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths. Every year, more than 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 25,000 men die from it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  provides men, doctors, and policymakers with the latest information about prostate cancer.



Different people have different symptoms for prostate cancer. Some men do not have symptoms at all. Some symptoms of prostate cancer are:

•Difficulty in starting urination.

•Weak or interrupted flow of urine.

•Frequent urination, especially at night.

•Difficulty in 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.


If you have any symptoms that worry you, be sure to see your doctor right away. These symptoms may be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.


Risk Factors

There is no way to know for sure if you will get prostate cancer. Research has found risk factors that increase your chances of getting prostate cancer. These risk factors include:

Age: The older a man is, the greater his risk for getting prostate cancer.

Family history: Certain genes (the functional and physical units of heredity passed from parent to offspring) that you inherited from your parents may affect your prostate cancer risk. Currently, no single gene is sure to raise or lower your risk of getting prostate cancer. However, a man with a father, brother, or son who has had prostate cancer is two to three times more likely to develop the disease himself.

Race: Prostate cancer is more common in some racial and ethnic groups than in others, but medical experts do not know why. In 2010, black men had the highest rate of getting prostate cancer, followed by white, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander males.

Researchers are trying to determine the causes of prostate cancer and whether it can be prevented. They do not yet agree on the factors that can influence a man’s risk of developing the disease, either positively or negatively.


Screening for Prostate Cancer

Not all medical experts agree that screening for prostate cancer will save lives. Most prostate cancers grow slowly or not at all.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against prostate-specific antigent (PSA)-based screening for men who do not have symptoms. The potential benefit of prostate cancer screening is early detection of cancer, which may make treatment more effective. Potential risks include false positive test results (the test says you have cancer when you do not), treatment of prostate cancers that may never affect your health, and mild to serious side effects from treatment of prostate cancer.

Most organizations recommend that men discuss with their doctors the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening. CDC continues to support informed decision making, which encourages men to talk with their doctors to learn the nature and risk of prostate cancer, understand the benefits and risks of the screening tests, and make decisions consistent with their preferences and values.

Tests that are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer are:

Digital rectal exam (DRE): A doctor, nurse, or other health care professional places a gloved finger into the rectum to feel the size, shape, and hardness of the prostate gland.

Prostate specific antigen test (PSA): PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood, which may be higher in men who have prostate cancer. However, other conditions such as an enlarged prostate, prostate infections, and certain medical procedures also may increase PSA levels.

As a rule, the higher the PSA level in the blood, the more likely a prostate problem is present. But many factors, such as age and race, can affect PSA levels. Some prostate glands make more PSA than others. PSA levels also can be affected by
certain medical procedures;certain medications; an enlarged prostate; or a prostate infection.

Because many factors can affect PSA levels, your doctor is the best person to interpret your PSAtest results.


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