UNIVERSITY PARK – When prostate cancer strikes, a man may experience feelings of depression, inadequacy and anxiety — emotions that can be equally devastating to the woman in his life.
Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer and second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in American men. Catching the disease early through screenings and checkups is important. One in six American men will be diagnosed in his lifetime. Often placing both an emotional and sexual strain on relationships, prostate cancer is not solely a man’s problem.
Prostate cancer is a malignant tumor that develops in the male prostate gland — the small, chestnut-shaped gland that secretes part of the fluid in semen. Though it is normal for the gland to enlarge with age, sometimes cells can grow uncontrollably, giving rise to prostate cancer.
Though the survival rate for men with this type of cancer is generally high, it is vital to prevent this problem before it starts and learn to help a loved one make the right choice to be screened for prostate cancer.
Early signs and detection
Prostate cancer in its earliest stage has no symptoms. If caught early through screening, prostate cancer is curable. Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer happen late in the disease. These symptoms include bone pain, back pain and weight loss.
However, one should have his or her partner seen by their physician if they complain of:
– Frequent and urgent need to urinate;
– Need to get up at night and urinate;
– Slow-starting urination;
– Dribbling after urinating;
– Blood or pus in urine or semen; and
– Painful ejaculation.
Most of these symptoms may be symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy, a noncancerous growth of the prostate. Therefore, routine screenings may be used to ensure the cause of the symptoms.
Who should be screened?
Particularly common in African-American men and men older than 50, the exact causes of prostate cancer are unknown. While age is the only proven risk factor, heredity, high-fat diets and exposure to the welding, rubber-plating and metal-plating industries also are being linked in research studies.
Because early detection is crucial, regular testing is the best way for a cure. It is recommended that men older than age 50 be screened annually with a digital rectal exam and a prostate specific antigen level. African-Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened starting at age 40.
Types of screenings
Because prostate cancer often causes no symptoms, it is usually found as part of a routine checkup or during an exam for some other problem, so regular physicals are a must. A prostate exam takes five minutes and is virtually pain-free. The doctor is looking for lumps on or around the prostate, smoothness of the gland, swelling and tenderness.
A simple blood test for the PSA also can be used to determine risk level for prostate cancer. However, a high level of PSA does not always signify cancer.
Though a loved one may be hesitant and anxious to be screened for prostate cancer, it is important to be supportive and informed about the screening options to help him make an informed decision.