Common early signs of prostate cancer include:
- Blood in urine or painful, burning urination
- More frequent need to urinate, especially at night
- Erectile dysfunction or painful ejaculation
- Urinary incontinence
- Decreased urine stream flow or difficulties starting or stopping urine flow
One of the complicating factors of prostate cancer diagnosis is the ubiquity of those symptoms. Nearly all of them can have alternative causes. Experiencing some of those symptoms doesn’t guarantee you are suffering from prostate cancer.
For example, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease can cause urinary incontinence. Blood in urine could be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), a bladder or kidney infection or kidney stones. Nerve or artery damage could cause erectile dysfunction, as can a number of medications ranging from antidepressants to antihistamines.
Experiencing the common symptoms of prostate cancer doesn’t mean you have prostate cancer, but you should seriously consider visiting a doctor for further testing.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
There are a number of ways to diagnose prostate cancer, or more accurately, to determine whether a biopsy is justified. The least invasive is prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. Another relatively fast check is a digital rectal exam (DRE).
If your doctor detects warning signs from either test, they will prescribe additional testing, like a prostate biopsy, to determine whether you have prostate cancer.
There are risks with even these basic prostate cancer diagnostics, including false positive results or false negative results. Men who receive a false positive result from a PSA or DRE may needlessly undergo a painful prostate biopsy and risk infection. Men who receive a false negative result may not receive early treatment, which could have long-term ramifications.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Age and genetics are the most common prostate cancer risk factors. The older a man is, the higher the probability he has of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Men with a family history of prostate cancer are also more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Race also plays a statistically significant role, with Black men being diagnosed at a higher rate than men of other ethnicities.
Men with specific family histories are more likely to receive a positive prostate cancer diagnosis. This includes men with:
- Multiple first-degree relatives who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer
- Other maternal or paternal family members who have been diagnosed with other types of cancer, especially breast cancer, pancreatic cancer or ovarian cancer
Who Should Undergo a Prostate Cancer Screening?
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends men between the ages of 55 and 69 discuss the benefits and risks of preventative PSA testing with their doctor. Men over the age of 70 should strongly consider undergoing routine prostate cancer screenings.
These recommendations apply to all men, including those with only an average risk for prostate cancer and those with no symptoms of prostate cancer.
Do Elevated PSA Levels Always Mean Prostate Cancer?
No – there are reasons other than prostate cancer that can lead to elevated PSA levels. Some medications or medical procedures may result in an increased concentration of prostate specific antigens in a man’s blood. Having an enlarged prostate or an infected prostate could also lead to elevated PSA levels, neither of which are necessarily caused by prostate cancer.
As with a DRE test, a PSA is mainly used to determine whether a prostate biopsy is justified. You and your doctor should discuss the potential alternative causes of your PSA test results as well as the benefits and risks of a prostate biopsy.
Treating Prostate Cancer
How you manage or treat prostate cancer depends on your health and the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed. In some circumstances, a physician may recommend active surveillance instead of aggressive treatment. In others, it may be necessary to act quickly to prevent the spread of prostate cancer to healthy tissues and organs.
Prostate growths can be benign, such as a benign prostatic hyperplasia. How benign growths should be addressed will likely vary based on your unique situation.
Is It Time for Your Prostate Cancer Screening?
If you’re worried about prostate cancer, you’re not alone. Many men feel anxiety just thinking about the possibility of such a life-changing diagnosis. If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with prostate cancer, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible.
You can also call 541-673-2267 (Ext. 5100) to speak with a prostate cancer expert at Community Cancer Center in Roseburg.