11 Things You Don’t Know About Prostate Cancer

You may know that the prostate gland is only present in men, and that those who follow their doctor’s recommendations have to deal with a potentially embarrassing, but necessary, exam to check for abnormalities. But there’s a good chance that you don’t know everything there is to know about prostate cancer.

The prostate gland produces fluid that’s present in semen. It lies just under the bladder and surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the kidney, through the penis and out of the body. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men of all races and Hispanic origin populations in the United States, so it pays to know everything you can about it.

1. It’s more common than breast cancer.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, men have a greater lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer than women have of developing breast cancer.

2. Family matters.

If you have a brother, father, or son with prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disease. Those with two relatives with prostate cancer are four times more likely.

3. Meat and dairy increase your risk.

Though the reasons aren’t clear, the American Cancer Society reports that a diet high in animal products, and low in fruits and vegetables, can give you a slightly higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

4. Some men have no symptoms.

Early detection of prostate cancer is important but difficult because oftentimes you don’t experience any symptoms in the early stages. Seeing your doctor to discuss prostate cancer screening will help to identify your risk of developing prostate cancer and the need for screening. Screening can include a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a blood test called prostate specific antigen (PSA).

5. For others, symptoms vary.

Early symptoms of prostate cancer can include difficulty urinating, blood in the urine or semen, painful urination and ejaculation, impotence, and pain and stiffness in the back, hips, and thighs.

6. The average age of diagnosis is about 66.

Prostate cancer is most common in older men, and it is quite rare in men younger than 40. But when younger men do get prostate cancer it tends to be more aggressive and they are more likely to die from it than men who are diagnosed later.

7. Black men are at a higher risk.

Prostate cancer is most common in African-American and African Caribbean men. They are also more likely to die from the disease.

8. It takes two tests to confirm.

The digital rectal exam, or DRE, involves a medical professional inserting their gloved finger into the rectum to physically examine the prostate for abnormalities. The good news: It’s over quickly. If any abnormalities are felt during the exam, a biopsy is needed to confirm cancer. Prostate specific antigen, or PSA, is a blood test that can be elevated in prostate cancer and is used to monitor prostate cancer once it has been diagnosed. However, PSA is not specific to prostate cancer, meaning that other conditions can also cause an abnormally elevated test, like benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) and urinary tract or prostate infections.

9. Treatment can be intense.

As with other forms of cancer, treating prostate cancer can take several different approaches. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy are all treatment options. In some cases, monitoring is recommended and treatment is only initiated if the cancer begins to grow.

10. The cure rate is very high, if you detect it early enough.

With early detection, the cure rate is close to 100 percent, because the cancer is still in the local stage.

11. And the prognosis is improving.

Just a few decades ago, in the 1970s, only 67 percent of men diagnosed with local prostate cancer were cancer-free five years after diagnosis.