Even though prostate cancer is the second most-common cancer in men in the United States, it’s not as widely discussed as other cancers.
On the upside, it’s one of the most treatable and survivable cancers when caught in its early stages — up to 99% survival after five years.
On the downside, many men don’t like to talk about it with loved ones or even their doctor. That may be due to the prostate’s location in the body or its function in sexual activity. But for men over 50, the value of asking their doctor about it should outweigh the cost of any embarrassment they may feel.
Prostate cancer often doesn’t carry obvious symptoms, and the only way to determine if you have prostate cancer is through screening and testing.
Screening for Men 50+
Annual screening for men ages 50 and older is strongly recommended. Screening identifies possible prostate problems, including but not limited to cancer, and their likely severity. But what does prostate screening involve?
“We use a variety of tools to help us understand who has which disease,” said Jonathan Silberstein, MD, Chief, Uro-Oncology at Memorial Cancer Institute. There are two primary prostate screening methods:
- Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) — is a simple blood test that can detect an abnormally high presence of PSA, an otherwise normal enzyme produced by the prostate gland. A high PSA can indicate a variety of prostate issues, including prostate cancer.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) — not as bad as it sounds, a DRE may be a bit uncomfortable but is not painful and takes only a couple minutes. Your doctor is able to feel enlargement or abnormal prostate growth and may request further testing, such as PSA.
Are You at Risk for Prostate Cancer?
The risk factors for prostate cancer are fairly far-reaching, which helps explain why it’s so common among men in the U.S.
Age — The risk of prostate cancer increases with age, especially after age 50.
Race — Black men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer more than men of other races.
Family history — Prostate cancer can run in a family. Familial prostate cancer makes up about 20% of all prostate cancers.
Back to Screening
Like some other cancers, prostate cancer is largely treatable and beatable if caught in the early stages. The only reliable way to determine whether you have prostate cancer is through screening. For men 50 and older, annual screening during your yearly check-up is a great way to stay ahead of prostate cancer.