Prostate Cancer Awareness and Screening by Ludmila Svoboda, RN, BSN, MA, OCN, Cancer Care Equity Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and we at WSHC wish for the men in our community to have all the tools to remain as healthy as possible.
One of these tools is to raise awareness to make sure the men in our community can make informed decisions about prostate cancer screening and can advocate for themselves to get the screening tools they deserve.
- Each man should get screened for prostate cancer starting at the age of 50.
- If a man has a family history of prostate cancer he may need to get screened starting earlier than age 50.
What is screening?
Screening involves looking for cancer before a person has any symptoms to help find cancer at an early stage. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat. By the time symptoms appear, cancer may be more advanced.
If a screening test result is abnormal, more tests may need to be done to find out if it is cancer. These are called diagnostic tests.
General Information About Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form in the tissues of the prostate.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States.
*Age, race, and family history of prostate cancer can affect the risk of developing prostate cancer.
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder.
As men age, the prostate may get bigger. A bigger prostate may block the flow of urine from the bladder and cause problems with sexual function. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and although it is not cancer, surgery may be needed to correct it. The symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia or of other problems in the prostate may be similar to symptoms of prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is found mainly in older men. Although the number of men with prostate cancer is large, most men diagnosed with this disease do not die from it. Prostate cancer occurs more frequently in African-American men than in Caucasians and African-American men with prostate cancer are more likely to die from the disease than their Caucasian counterparts.
- Being 50 years of age or older
- Being black
- Having a brother, son, or father who has/had prostate cancer
- Eating a diet high in fat or drinking alcoholic beverages
Prostate Cancer Screening
Tests to detect prostate cancer include the following:
- Detailed family history
- Digital rectal exam
- Prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)
Some screening tests are used because they have been shown to be helpful both in finding cancers early and decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. Other tests are used because they have been shown to find cancer in some people; however, it has not been proven in clinical trials that use of these tests will decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
Scientists study screening tests to find those with the fewest risks and most benefits. Cancer screening trials also are meant to show whether early detection (finding cancer before it causes symptoms) decreases a person’s chance of dying from the disease. For some types of cancer, finding and treating the disease at an early stage may result in a better chance of recovery.
There is no standard or routine screening test for prostate cancer.
Screening tests for prostate cancer are under study, and there are screening clinical trials taking place in many parts of the country. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI website.
Risks of Prostate Cancer Screening
- Finding prostate cancer may not improve health or help a man live longer
- Follow-up tests, such as a biopsy, may be done to diagnose cancer
- False-negative test results can occur
- False-positive test results can occur
The most important thing any man can do is to attend regular yearly physicals with his primary care doctor and to know his family history of prostate cancer. A family history of prostate cancer may increase a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer and may lead to screening before the age of 50.
Since there is a lot of information on the internet about prostate cancer and prostate cancer screening, please make sure you visit reputable websites with the most accurate and scientifically based information such as:
National Cancer Institute: www.cancer.gov
American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
National Comprehensive Cancer Network: www.nccn.org
Most importantly please review your family history of prostate cancer with your primary care provider and make sure you discuss prostate cancer screening with your primary care provider starting at the age of 50 (unless you have a family history of prostate cancer; then you may need to start screening earlier).
For more information regarding Dana-Farber Community Cancer Care, please contact us at (617) 632-5335 or (617) 989-3267. To schedule an appointment for a prostate exam, please call our office at (617) 989-3200 or (617) 989-3260. Our fax number is (617) 632-4088.