Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. An American male has a 1-in-6 chance of developing this cancer. About 200,000 men in the United States are diagnosed every year, and this number will rise as baby boomers reach the age where prostate cancer is prevalent.
According to the American Cancer Society, the exact cause of prostate cancer is unclear. The good news for men who have the disease is the survival rate; the 5-year survival rate is almost 100 percent, and the 10-year survival rate is more than 90 percent. This is due to early detection and improved treatments.
Early Cancer Detection
As with any cancer, early detection is critical for prostate cancer cures and treatment planning. It is important for men in their 50s to talk to their doctors about regular screenings. Younger men need support to know what to do if they have risk factors for prostate cancer.
Common Risk Factors
In addition to age, obesity increases the risk of prostate cancer. Obese men are likely to have advanced cancer by the time they are diagnosed, which makes it harder to treat. Black men have a higher risk than men of other races, and prostate cancer is often more aggressive for them. A family history of prostate or breast cancer is another common risk factor.
Prostate Cancer Tests
Prostate cancer screenings involve two tests: a digital rectum exam (DRE) and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. During a DRE, the doctor inserts a finger into the patient’s rectum to examine the prostate gland. Abnormalities or changes signal the need for additional tests.
A PSA test analyzes the blood for prostate-specific antigen, an enzyme released by the prostate gland. It is normal for the blood to contain small amounts of PSA, but high levels can indicate prostate infection, enlargement or cancer.
Other Diagnostic Tests
When a PSA test or rectum exam detects abnormalities, the doctor uses other tests to make a diagnosis. He or she may use an ultrasound to evaluate the prostate. If initial tests suggest cancer, a biopsy is performed. The prostate cells are analyzed in a lab to determine if cancer cells are present.
When a biopsy confirms cancer, the next step is staging the disease to determine its aggressiveness and how far it has spread. More tests may be needed to make this determination. Examples include an ultrasound, bone scan, computerized tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
After Cancer Diagnosis
After testing is complete, the cancer is assigned a stage to determine the best treatment. Early stages of cancer may not require immediate treatment. Later stages usually respond to radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy or surgery.