To say prostate cancer strikes fear into the hearts of men is putting it mildy.
No other cancer threatens a man’s self-worth like prostate cancer.
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located in front of the rectum and underneath the urinary bladder. It is found only in men. The prostate’s job is to make some of the fluid that protects and nourishes sperm cells in semen.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer begins when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. There are many kinds of cancer, but they all start because of out-of-control growth of abnormal cells.
As with all cancers, certain factors put you at greater risk. The American Cancer Society reports some of the risk factors for prostate cancer are:
– Age. Prostate cancer is not common before age 40 but rapidly increases after age 50. Almost two out of three prostate cancers are found in men over age 65.
– Race. African-American men have a higher rate of prostate cancer, and usually they are diagnosed at an advanced stage and are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men.
– Nationality. Prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia and on Caribbean islands.
– Family history. Prostate cancer seems to run in some families, which suggests that in some cases there may be inherited or genetic factors.
– Genes. Scientists have found several inherited genes that seem to raise prostate cancer risk, but they probably account for only a small number of cases overall.
Certain signs and symptoms may indicate an enlarged prostate (either cancer-related or benign):
– Getting up more than once at night to urinate (nocturia).
– Urinating more frequently than every two hours during the daytime.
– Feeling that you have to urinate but then finding that it takes a while for the urine to come out (hesitancy).
– Straining or pushing to get your urine stream started and/or to maintain your stream.
– Dribbling urine near the completion of voiding.
– A urine steam that stops and starts during voiding (intermittency).
– Feeling of incomplete emptying such that you feel you could void again shortly.
Along with knowing the risk factors and symptoms, men must also know the importance of early detection and take an active role in their health care. Men must discuss with their health care provider their concerns, risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.
The American Cancer Society recommends African-American men begin prostate screening at age 45 and all other men at age 50. The screening is usually done in two steps – prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE).
The normal PSA range is 0-2.55 (or 0-2.0 for African-Americans). Men who have a PSA of less than 2.5 ng/ml may only need to be retested every two years. Screening should be done yearly for men whose PSA level is 2.5 ng/ml or higher.
During these very difficult economical times people are concerned about paying for preventive testing. The good news is that Medicare covers yearly preventive testing and most major private insurance companies also cover testing.
Another opportunity is available Saturdays, Sept. 18 and 25, when Urology Professional Association will hold its annual free prostate cancer screening. For appointment information, call (662) 377-7100 or 1-800-THE DESK (1-800-843-3375).
Cindy Edwards is a certified oncology social worker at North Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Center.