About 175,000 men are expected to develop prostate cancer this year, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society, and about 32,000 men are expected to die of the disease. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer-related death in American men, following lung cancer. Spread out over a lifetime, about one out of every nine men will have prostate cancer, and one out of every 41 men will die of the disease.
Those are some sobering statistics. But as serious as prostate cancer can be, it’s also highly curable — as long as it’s caught and treated early, before the cancer has a chance to spread. The American Cancer Society estimates the five-year survival rate for men with localized cancer — that is, cancer that’s confined to the prostate — at nearly 100% when treatment starts right away; even if the cancer has spread to the local region, including the lymph nodes and neighboring areas, the five-year survival rate is still nearly 100%. However, if the cancer goes undetected and spreads to other organs or more distant parts of the body, the five-year survival rate drops to about 30%. Bottom line: Early detection saves lives. And part of detecting prostate cancer in its earliest stages is knowing what symptoms to look for so you can be evaluated as quickly as possible.
Prostate cancer: Signs and symptoms
So, the good news is that when you detect prostate cancer in its very early stages, you’ve got a much better chance of survival. The bad news is that in its absolute earliest stages, prostate cancer causes very few symptoms. However, as it develops — and even before it spreads to other organs in the body — there are some signs you should be aware of.
One of the most easily recognizable signs of a prostate problem is difficulty urinating. That includes having a weak stream of urine, dribbling urine, and having frequent urges to urinate, even during sleep and even if you don’t have a lot of urine in your bladder. Urinary symptoms occur as the tumor enlarges and begins pressing on your bladder or against your urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body).
Urinary troubles may be the symptom most commonly associated with prostate cancer, but it’s not the only symptom you need to be aware of. Other symptoms include:
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Problems getting or maintaining an erection
- Pain during ejaculation
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area
- Pain or pressure in the rectum area, the hips, or the lower back
It’s worth noting that sometimes the prostate can become enlarged simply as a result of age-related changes, and not because of a prostate tumor. This condition is known as benign hyperplasia, or BPH. Like a tumor, BPH can also cause problems with urination. Of course, there’s no way for you to know whether your symptoms are being caused by a tumor or from BPH. And that’s why if you have any type of unusual symptoms, it’s very important to schedule a prostate exam right away.
The importance of prostate screening
Since it’s not always easy to identify prostate cancer symptoms in their earliest stages, having routine prostate screenings is the best way to monitor your prostate health. Screening typically involves two exams or tests.
The digital rectal exam, or DRE, palpates the prostate and surrounding area to check for signs of swelling or abnormal growths; it’s often performed as part of an annual physical or well exam.
The second test is called the prostate-specific antigen test, or PSA. This test measures the amount of a protein that’s produced by prostate cells. If levels are abnormally high, it could indicate the presence of a tumor. However, BPH can also cause high levels of PSA. If your levels are high, Dr. Lesani may order additional tests, including a digital rectal exam or an ultrasound-guided biopsy procedure to extract prostate gland cells through a needle. The cells can then be analyzed in a lab to determine if cancer cells are present. In some cases, imaging tests like MRI might be ordered, as well.
Are you overdue for a prostate screening?
As a top-ranked urologist in Las Vegas, Dr. Alex Lesani recommends that all men 40 and over have a screening at least every two years. Routine screening can also help Dr. Lesani spot very subtle changes that could indicate a need for closer monitoring. If it's been two or more years since your last prostate screening, don't wait any longer: Book an appointment online today.