Each year there are more than 30,000 prostate cancer deaths that could be prevented through prostate cancer screening, which helps to find prostate cancer early, before there are any symptoms. In fact, most prostate cancer does not have any symptoms at all. However, when prostate cancer is not caught early, often urinary changes are the first thing that men notice. While urinary problems can be a result of the normal aging process, it can also be a sign that something is wrong. For individuals with symptomatic prostate cancer, they may experience:
- A painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation.
- Frequent urination, especially getting up at night to go to the bathroom
- Difficulty stopping or starting urination.
- Slower flow of urine
- Blood in urine or semen
As cancer advances people may also have:
- Unexplained pain in the back or spine
- Unexplained weight loss
Your role in prostate cancer screening
The time to diagnose, treat and cure prostate cancer is through good screening versus waiting until symptoms arrive. Sometimes patients wait for their primary care doctor to guide them, however, due to some confusion in the frequency PSA testing guidelines, many primary care doctors are not familiar with the current recommendations, so you should be your own advocate and let your urologist be your guide.
A PSA test is a simple and inexpensive blood test that is used to detect prostate cancer. PSA testing works. Prior to regular PSA screening, in the mid 90’s, 75% of men who were found to have prostate cancer had metastatic disease. Meaning the cancer had spread outside of the prostate. Today, with regular PSA testing, urologists can find prostate cancer while it is localized to the prostate and when that happens, the cure rate is in the mid 90% range.
Urologists recommend a PSA screening at least every other year and for some at higher risk – every year. Men should think about starting PSA testing at age 55 and continue at least until they are 70, and even after 70, if healthy. Some higher risk individuals may need to start screening earlier. For those individuals who have a primary relative who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and those who are African American it is recommended that they begin screening in their 40’s.
Early diagnosis is important as finds cancer before it has spread, and that leaves more options for treatment. Men should know that like mammograms for women, prostate cancer screening is not something to fear and preventive care should be a top priority. If the cancer is caught early, many of the treatments available today are less invasive and have very few side-effects while still having high rates of curing cancer. Now, we even have non-invasive treatments like Cyberknife, which can treat and cure cancer in a matter of weeks, more advanced surgical techniques and many opportunities to mitigate unwanted side effects and still cure the cancer. So don’t wait until you have symptoms – find a urologist and get on a schedule to be proactive and keep yourself in good health.