Prostate Cancer

What is it, how is it diagnosed, what are the symptoms, and what are the treatment options.


Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men in America, making this a leading health concern. The prostate is a gland, located under the bladder, which is an important part of the reproduction process. Due to its location and the sensitivity of its purpose, problems such as prostate cancer often go unnoticed for some time

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

medically accurate illustration - painful prostateWhen it comes to prostate cancer, the symptoms can be easy to miss. Similar to other prostate conditions, such as prostatitis (prostate inflammation) and prostate enlargement (also known as BPH), early prostate cancer can grow undetected and undiagnosed until common prostate infection symptoms occur, including urinary incontinence, pelvic discomfort, erectile dysfunction, blood in semen and in extreme cases bone pain.

Who Is At Risk?

Although prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males and the third most common cancer overall, doctors are still unsure what specifically causes prostate cancer. However, as with all cancers, prostate cancer occurs when abnormal cell mutations occur in the prostate gland. Doctors may not know the exact cause, but there are multiple factors—such as diet, age, family history and race—which increase the overall risk of prostate cancer.

Risk Factors

All men can develop prostate cancer, but some dietary choices increase this risk. It has been proven that countries where meat and dairy products are dietary staples have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer than countries that eat a diet based on rice, soybeans and vegetables. Researchers suspect the fat contained in red meat, coupled with the possibility of producing additional carcinogenic chemicals when cooking meat at a high temperature make red meat eaters more likely to develop prostate cancer.

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Dietary habits can be a key factor in the development of prostate cancer, but family history can give you important insight into a man’s likelihood of prostate cancer. Men who have relatives with prostate cancer are typically more susceptible to the disease. This is also true for men whose female relatives have a history of breast cancer. For those with fathers and brothers who have had the prostate cancer, their risk of developing prostate cancer is more than two times higher than those with no family history of prostate cancer. The more family members with prostate cancer, the greater the chance a man will be affected.

Race Can Play A Roll

For American men, race can play a large role in the likelihood of developing prostate cancer. African-American men have a 60 percent greater chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer than white, American men. Not only are their chances higher, but African-American men are also more frequently diagnosed with a more advanced stage of prostate cancer. Although this is typical in America, in other native countries, African-American men are drastically less likely to develop prostate cancer. Researchers believe this is due to changes in exposure to sun and dietary intake upon migration to the United States, which increases the risk of prostate cancer. However, there is no proven environmental connection at this point.

Diagnosis Increases After 50

Lastly, as with many prostate health concerns, prostate cancer comes with age. After age 50, men have a great risk of prostate cancer, with two-thirds of men diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 65 or older and 80 percent of men who reach age 80 carrying prostate cancer cells. There are many signs or backgrounds that appear to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer, but there has been no definitive combination that either guarantees or negates a man’s chance of developing the disease.

The blood sample with high PSA resultDRE and PSA Tests

Since there is a lack of overall knowledge pertaining to prostate cancer, screening for this disease brings up a multitude of questions. Because most of the screening tests come with known risks or little to no improvement in overall outcome, it is important to discuss the necessity of screening before determining what is right for a man’s specific situation. The two most common and least detrimental exams are the digital rectal exam (DRE) and the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. The DRE is when a doctor places a single finger into the patient’s rectum to physically examine the prostate to determine if there are any oddities that may need to be investigated further. The PSA includes a blood test that examines the patient’s level of PSAs in the blood stream. If this count is higher than average, it may point to a prostate abnormality. There are more in-depth screenings, including ultrasounds and biopsies; however, the usefulness of these more extensive screenings may be limited since treatment once diagnosed does not always outweigh the potential negative side effects.

Active Surveillance

With screening risks high and rate of return low in most cases, prostate cancer can often go untreated without causing significant issues. Doctors instead suggest active surveillance to monitor the overall growth of the cancer without interfering unless necessary. Because most cases of prostate cancer occur in older men, treatment can do more harm than good. As long as the prostate cancer is confined to the prostate, it may not require treatment. Consequently, without treatment, the prostate cancer may spread into later stages of cancer, which greatly decreases the chances of curing the cancer.

Research and Increasing Survival Rates

As one of the top three most common cancers in the United States, prostate cancer is at the forefront of many research companies in an attempt to expand data on how the disease occurs and what can be done to minimize risk and maximize treatment benefits. Doctors and researchers continue clinical research to determine the best ways to treat prostate cancer without negative consequences. With no one-size-fits-all treatment option, men diagnosed with prostate cancer should work closely with their doctors to define what treatment options, if any, are the best for their case. Although prostate cancer is frequent and treatment varies, the outlook of prostate cancer patients is positive with recent research data of prostate cancer from 2005 to 2011 showing a 98.9 percent survival rate for all prostate cancer patients, regardless of stage and age.