Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among American men, and accounts for nearly 20 percent of all new cancers developed by men. The disease develops in the prostate gland, which produces seminal fluid. It can cause difficulty in urination and sexual function.
Prostate cancer mainly affects older men. It is a slow-developing disease and usually is not life-threatening if detected early.
Prostate Cancer Warning Signs
Although there are warning signs for prostate cancer, they are not usually present during the disease’s initial development. Because of this, it is critically important for men at risk because of age, family history or lifestyle factors such as diet or obesity to be tested regularly. Warning signs include:
- Need to urinate frequently, especially at night
- Difficulty in starting urination
- Weak or interrupted urine flow
- Pain or burning when urinating
- Difficulty having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or stiffness in lower back, hips or upper thighs
Men should have annual prostate screenings when they turn 50. Men at higher risk, including African Americans, men with a family history of the disease and obese men, should begin screenings when they’re 45. Screening can detect prostate cancer early, before symptoms develop. Prostate cancer that is caught early can almost always be treated effectively.
Tests to find prostate cancer include:
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – This is an exam of the rectum. The doctor or nurse inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum to feel the prostate for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) – This test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made mostly by the prostate that may be found in increased amounts in the blood of men who have prostate cancer. PSA levels may also be high in men who have an infection or inflammation of the prostate or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlarged but noncancerous prostate.
It is important to remember that your doctor does not necessarily think you have cancer if he or she suggests a screening test. Screening tests are given when you have no cancer symptoms. The tests may be repeated on a regular basis.