Your prostate cancer search questions answered

Dr. Farshid Sadeghi
With the help of Dr. Farshid Sadeghi, Medical Director of Genitourinary Center at CTCA Phoenix, we’ll answer some of the most-asked prostate cancer questions on Google.

When you have questions about your health, where’s the first place you go to get answers? Your doctor? Your mom? The school nurse? Probably not.

Studies show that, before asking their doctor, most Americans—up to 89 percent—go to Google, or Dr. Google, as it’s sometimes known. Google says it gets about one billion health-related searches a day. And many of those queries are about cancer. In fact, Cancer Research UK reported that “What is cancer?” was the most searched question on Google in 2017.

Among the most asked-about cancers is prostate cancer, and with good reason. The disease is the most common cancer among American men and the second-most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. 

Users asked many similar questions related to prostate cancer, but they asked them in different ways. Most queries had to deal with prostate cancer causes and prevention, warning signs and screening tests.

In this article, we’ll answer some of your most-asked prostate cancer questions on Google with the help of Farshid Sadeghi, MD, Urologist and Medical Director of Genitourinary Center at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), Phoenix. Questions include:

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would like to get a second opinion on your diagnosis or treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate gland, located between the bladder and the male urethra, produces fluid that, along with sperm cells and other fluid, makes up semen. The prostate is about the size of a walnut and is a channel through which both urine and semen pass.

As with many malignancies, prostate cancer develops when cells in the gland mutate and start growing uncontrollably. The mutated cells may eventually form a tumor or tumors.

Caught early, prostate cancer is highly treatable. The five-year survival rate for patients whose cancer was localized is nearly 100 percent. But the rate falls dramatically when the cancer has spread beyond the prostate to distant organs.

What causes prostate cancer?

Google searchers went at this question from several different angles:

  • How do you get prostate cancer?
  • How to prevent prostate cancer?
  • How to avoid prostate cancer?

There are several risk factors for prostate cancer, but the number one cause, according to Dr. Sadeghi, is “being a man.” One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and the cause of the individual’s disease may never be known.

Men can take steps to reduce their risk of prostate cancer by living a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Sadeghi says. Be active. Eat healthy foods. Maintain a healthy weight.

“Even if you still get prostate cancer, having a healthy weight tends to help patients recover better and live longer,” he says. “In fact, a low-fat diet is a good idea whether you have or are trying to prevent prostate cancer or not.”

Certain risk factors for prostate cancer are out of your control, including:

Age: More than 90 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men 55 or older.

Race: African-American men are 70 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer and are more likely to die from the disease.

Genetics: Men born with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations or other genetic anomalies or mismatched DNA may be at higher risk for prostate cancer. About 10 percent of prostate cancers are thought to be related to inherited mutations.

How to check for prostate cancer?

Other iterations of this question on Google include:

The answer to all these questions is the same: “Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam (DRE),” Dr. Sadeghi says. “You should get both.”

A PSA test measures a specific protein produced in the prostate. Even healthy cells produce PSA, but elevated levels may be a sign of prostate cancer. Multiple factors, including specific conditions or medications, may elevate your PSA, so it’s also good to get a DRE. During that exam, a doctor inserts a lubed, gloved finger through the anus and feels the prostate through the walls of the rectum. The doctor is checking the gland’s size and for any lumps or bumps.

Dr. Sadeghi recommends men get screened at age 40 to set a baseline for future screenings, especially if they’re in high-risk groups. If the initial screening uncovers no abnormalities, it’s possible to wait a few years before getting another. By age 50, men should be getting an annual physical and screenings.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations are less definitive. They suggest:

  • Men ages 55 to 69 should consult with their doctor about being screened for prostate cancer with a PSA test.
  • Men who are 70 years old and older should not be routinely screened for prostate cancer.

What are the warning signs of prostate cancer?

Searchers also asked: What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

While the disease eventually produces symptoms, there often are no early warning signs. Most men with prostate cancer do not experience symptoms during early stages of prostate cancer. Therefore waiting for symptoms to occur is not a good idea when screening for prostate cancer.

Most prostate cancer symptoms surface only after the cancer has grown. Dr. Sadeghi urges men not to wait until they experience symptoms before they get their prostate checked.

“A lot of men come here and wonder why they have prostate cancer because they have had no problems urinating,” Dr. Sadeghi says. “They don’t have blood in the urine or get up at night. They urinate fine. Urinary symptoms often have nothing to do with prostate cancer because, in the majority of cases, the cancer usually starts in the periphery of the prostate, and by the time you have urinary problems, it’s because the cancer has grown from the periphery to the center.”

More searched-for questions

Other common questions asked about prostate cancer on Google include:

Where does prostate cancer spread?

When it metastasizes, prostate cancer most often spreads to lymph nodes, bone, the lungs and liver.

Learn more about metastatic prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer treated?

The most common treatment options for prostate cancer are surgery and radiation therapy. Treatment for metastatic prostate cancer includes:

  • Androgen deprivation therapy, which blocks the body from making testosterone or the cancer cells from sensing the presence of testosterone.
  • Targeted therapy, which looks for specific features on cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy, which kills fast growing cells.

Learn more about treatment options for prostate cancer.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

If a PSA or DRE indicates cancer may be present, your doctor may order a biopsy, usually an in-office procedure in which a doctor collects a sample of prostate tissue for study under a microscope. A biopsy may be performed through the wall of the rectum or through the perineum, the area between the scrotum and anus. The samples or prostate tissue are examined by a pathologist, who will determine if there is cancer and the aggressiveness of the cancer cells.

A doctor may also order an MRI of the prostate to localize any suspicious areas of the prostate. These areas can then be targeted during the biopsy, increasing the accuracy of the procedure in identifying cancer.

Should you get a prostate biopsy? Learn more.

If you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer and would like to get a second opinion on your diagnosis or treatment plan, call us or chat online with a member of our team.