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Prostate cancer: Increase your awareness

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which means now is the perfect time to learn more about prostate cancer, and share this important information with the men in your life.

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in American men. About one out of six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. While a prostate cancer diagnosis is serious and shouldn’t be ignored, fortunately most men diagnosed with prostate cancer make a full recovery and return to their normal lives after treatment.

Also, men with prostate cancer have a very positive prognosis. According to the American Cancer Society, the 10-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed at an early stage is 98 percent. Even for men with advanced-stage prostate cancers that haven’t spread to distant parts of the body, the five-year survival rate is still close to 100 percent.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is cancer that begins in tissues of the prostate gland. Located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, the prostate is the male sex gland responsible for the production of semen.

When it comes to prostate cancer, receiving a diagnosis early can be very beneficial. Therefore, in observance of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, take a few moments to note the risk factors and symptoms that are associated with the disease.

Risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. However, it is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer, and not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer.

Here are the main risk factors for prostate cancer:

  • Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age.
  • Race: Studies show that African-American men are approximately 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian or Hispanic men.
  • Family History of Prostate Cancer: Men with an immediate blood relative, such as a father or brother, who has experienced prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease. If another family member is diagnosed with the disease, the chances of getting prostate cancer increase.
  • Diet: A diet high in saturated fat, as well as obesity, increases the risk of prostate cancer.
  • High Testosterone Levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as an increase in testosterone stimulates the growth of the prostate gland.

Symptoms

In many cases, prostate cancer symptoms are not apparent in the early stages of the disease. Not every man will experience the same symptoms, and many of the symptoms listed below could be a result of other conditions. If you experience any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, consult your doctor:

  • Burning or pain during urination
  • Difficulty urinating, or trouble starting and stopping while urinating
  • More frequent urges to urinate at night
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Decreased flow or velocity of urine stream
  • Blood in urine (hematuria) or in semen
  • Difficulty getting an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Swelling in legs or pelvic area
  • Numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet
  • Bone pain that doesn't go away, or leads to fractures

Reducing your Risk

In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, why not consider following some of the suggestions below that have been shown to reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer:

  • Increase exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat more fish
  • Eat more fruits and veggies
  • Perform prostate self-exams
  • Speak with your doctor about creating an appropriate screening schedule for your needs

Choosing a treatment that’s right for you

If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are numerous treatment options available. The main treatment approaches are surgery and radiation therapy, while more advanced options include hormone therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Each treatment method is different and will have different effects on your body. Some potential side effects may include erectile dysfunction or incontinence. These side effects may be uncomfortable, and whether they are short-term or long-term, you can learn how to manage these conditions so you can continue to live an active life after treatment.

The great news is that many hospitals are offering advanced, minimally invasive treatments that may reduce the risk of urinary or sexual side effects, such as da Vinci® Surgical System and the CyberKnife® VSI™ Robotic Radiosurgery System. Talk to your doctor to see if you are a candidate for one of these new treatment methods.

As you carefully consider treatment options, including watchful waiting, make sure that you have an open conversation with your doctor about possible side effects, as well as any other concerns you may have. Also, don’t be afraid to get a second or even third opinion, to make sure that you understand all of the possibilities available to you.

After all of your treatment options have been presented, talk with your loved ones, a spiritual advisor, counselor or your doctor about how to proceed. It is your body, so remember that the final decision belongs to you.

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