For many, the beginning of the year signifies a fresh start, offering an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities and reflect on what is truly important in our lives, including our health. For example, annual check-ups are critical to staying healthy and regular screenings may help find some common cancers early. With this in mind, set yourself and your loved ones up for a healthy 2022 by taking a few moments to learn more about prostate cancer – the most common form of cancer in American men, other than skin cancer.
Fast Facts about Prostate Cancer
Approximately one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer begins in the prostate – a gland in the male reproductive system – and while many prostate cancers are confined to the prostate gland, some types are aggressive and can spread quickly. Risk factors for prostate cancer include older age (most commonly after age 65), race, family history and genetic factors. In some cases, prostate cancer can be very serious and even fatal. It’s also important to know that Black men are twice as likely as white men to die of prostate cancer and have the highest prostate cancer mortality among all U.S. population groups.
Prostate cancer is considered advanced if it is recurrent (meaning it has returned after initial treatment), locally advanced (meaning it has spread to tissues near the prostate) or metastatic (meaning it has spread to other parts of the body). Some men with advanced prostate cancer may experience problems passing urine or may see blood in their urine. Some may also feel tired, weak or lose weight. However, some men with advanced prostate cancer may not have any signs or symptoms. While advanced prostate cancer cannot be cured, there are many ways to treat it and potentially slow its progression, once detected.
Testing and Treatment
The American Urological Association (AUA) prostate cancer screening guidelines suggest men 55 to 69 years old make decisions about getting screened for prostate cancer based on a discussion with their doctor. Men with a family history of prostate cancer and Black men may be at a higher risk for prostate cancer and can think about getting screened at an earlier age.
If cancer is detected, healthcare providers may suggest different treatment options based on the results of test findings, the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health. For example, some men with early-stage prostate cancer may be able to consider active surveillance instead of beginning treatment right away. Their doctor will perform regular testing to help determine if the cancer is growing and if treatment may be necessary. For advanced disease, first-line treatment often includes androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), which can lower levels of testosterone – a hormone that drives prostate cancer. There are a few different types of androgen deprivation therapy, including medications, as well as surgical options like orchiectomy (surgical castration). It’s important for patients to work with their doctors to understand and assess each option and determine what is best for them.
Additional Health Risks & Emotional Toll
Many men living with advanced prostate cancer do not realize that in addition to the cancer itself, they could also be at an increased risk of other serious health conditions, so it’s important for them to talk to their doctors about their risk factors. Additionally, coping with a serious condition like cancer can be very difficult, so it also is important for patients to take care of their mental health. Receiving a diagnosis of cancer can cause a range of feelings including disbelief, fear, anger, anxiety, and depression. Many prostate cancer patients experience severe levels of depression, which can negatively affect their treatment progress and disease course. Adding to this, prostate cancer may be seen as a private disease, which can be emotionally isolating.
When someone is diagnosed with prostate cancer, they should talk to their doctor about their overall health, including both health risk factors and mental well-being. Their doctor will work with them to assess their personal situation and determine how to help manage the disease. Some patients may feel overwhelmed, so it is important they take time to absorb the information their doctor shares with them. Asking any questions that come to mind is also crucial in order for patients to feel confident about their path forward. Support from friends and family is also incredibly important, so if one of your loved ones has been diagnosed, know there are many resources that can help you learn how to help.
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