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Prostate cancer: Know symptoms, screenings and treatment

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., not including non-melanoma skin cancer. It is one of the leading causes of death across male populations.

So what should you know about the symptoms, screenings and treatment of prostate cancer?

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Symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that different men could have different symptoms, with some men not showing any signs of having prostate cancer.

However, the CDC said that if you see any of the following symptoms you should see a doctor quickly:

  • Difficulty starting urination.
  • Weak urination flow.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away.

The American Cancer Society also states that weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or loss of bladder or bowel control could be experienced if the cancer is pushing on the spinal cord.

The CDC says that while you may have these symptoms, it could be a result of conditions other than prostate cancer, and doctors can make the diagnosis.

An unrelated condition that has similar symptoms can be a noncancerous growth of the prostate called benign prostatic hyperplasia, according to the American Cancer Society.

Risk factors

Several risk factors could make people more susceptible to developing prostate cancer, according to the CDC.

Those factors include:

  • Race, as African American men are most likely to develop prostate cancer than other men, and are more than twice as likely to die from it.
  • Family history includes more than one close relative with prostate cancer, like a father, son or brother. Other family members’ diagnoses of breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer can also increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Prevention

The American Cancer Society said although there is no way to prevent prostate cancer, men can lower their risk.

They can lower their body weight, as men who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer.

Men can also cut back on dairy products and calcium, as the American Cancer Society said that some studies have linked a higher risk of prostate cancer to men who have a high dairy diet.

The American Cancer Society suggests attaining and maintaining a healthy weight; keeping physically active; and eating a variety of foods, limiting how much red or processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and highly processed foods are eaten.

Screenings

Doctors will test a patient for prostate cancer by using a Prostate Specific Antigen, or PSA test, that examines the level of PSA in the blood. The higher the level, the higher the chance of cancer present, but this is not true all the time.

The CDC said PSA levels can be higher because of some medical procedures, medications, an enlarged prostate or a prostate infection.

Doctors can also do an internal examination to feel for prostate abnormalities, but the test is not recommended by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force because the group did not find evidence that supported the benefits of the test, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends that men who are 55 to 69 years old should consider having a prostate screening with a PSA test, but they should talk to a doctor before making a decision to go over the benefits and risks.

The American Urological Association (AUA) does not recommend that men under the age of 55 with average risk have the screening, but to remember that the decision should be on an individual basis, taking into account other risk factors like race and family cancer history.

The AUA also suggests that men who do undergo screenings to have them every two years or more, but again, men are advised to talk to their doctor for what’s best in their situation.

The AUA recommends that men over the age of 70, or men with a life expectancy of less than 10 to 15 years, not undergo the test in most cases.

For more on the AUA’s recommendations, click here.

Treatment

Treatment of prostate cancer can vary depending on the patient and how advanced the cancer is.

Treatment includes:

  • Active surveillance, where doctors watch PSA levels and other tests and then treat cancer if it grows or causes symptoms.
  • Surgery, where doctors remove the prostate in a procedure called a prostatectomy. A radical prostatectomy removes the gland and surrounding tissue.
  • Radiation, either external, where a machine targets radiation at cancer cells, or internal radiation therapy, called brachytherapy, where seeds or pellets are placed in or near the cancer.
  • Cryotherapy, which can freeze and kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy, which shrinks or kills cancer cells, and is administered by pills and/or intravenously.
  • High-intensity focused ultrasound, which uses sound waves to kill cancer cells.
  • Hormone therapy, which can be used to block the hormones that prostate cancer needs to grow.

Some may suggest other complementary and alternative programs that are not the standard treatments. Those can include meditation, yoga, and vitamin and herbal supplements. The CDC reminds people that these alternative and complementary methods have not been tested scientifically, and to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of the treatments.

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