Raising the bar for men’s health means getting to the point(s).
In my first installment of this blog series, I answered three crucial prostate cancer questions often asked by men and the women who care about them: What are the significant prostate cancer risk factors; What are the best ways to prevent prostate cancer; and How does – and when should – a man get screened for prostate cancer? In this series' second part, I'll cover three additional questions that deserve answers to help a man understand what to do if he suspects a prostate problem. This will include the symptoms or warning signs of prostate cancer, how doctors accurately diagnose prostate issues, and the most effective prostate cancer treatments.
What are the most common prostate cancer warning signs?
When I perform regular prostate examinations, I often tell patients that the best time to diagnose prostate cancer is when the man isn't experiencing any symptoms. That's why regular screenings are so important. Because prostate cancer in its earliest (and most treatable) stages usually doesn't cause symptoms. However, as the cancer advances, symptoms can occur. Later stage prostate cancer symptoms can include blood in the urine, pain in the pelvic area or groin, and an intense urge to pee more frequently. Additional symptoms can include kidney failure, swelling of the lower extremities, bone pain, and paralysis when prostate cancer progresses further.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed, and who should make the diagnosis?
As mentioned above, early-stage prostate cancer does not typically cause any noticeable symptoms. Generally, it is more common for men to present to their primary care physician (PCP) with symptoms affecting the lower urinary tract due to a benign enlarged prostate, called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). It is important to note that many men will have prostate cancer and BPH concurrently, even though the noticeable symptoms are due to the BPH and not cancer necessarily. Therefore, even though the patient may have BPH, the physician should take the opportunity to discuss prostate cancer screening with their patient. If the screening is abnormal, then the PCP should refer the patient to a urologist for further workup for possible prostate cancer.
What are the available prostate cancer treatment options today?
The great news is that there are more treatment options for prostate cancer today than ever before. Depending on the prostate cancer type, stage, and grade, any given patient can be a good candidate for one or more treatment options.
The various options for treatment depend on several important variables:
• Patient age
• Patient health status
• Patient co-morbidities
• Stage of cancer
• Degree of aggressiveness of cancer
• Amount of cancer found on biopsy
• Results of molecular testing on the cancer specimen
• Patient's expectations for the lifestyle they wish to return to after treatment
The " right " choice for any man diagnosed with prostate cancer is extremely personal. From hormone therapy and radiation therapy to open, minimally invasive, and robotic surgical methods, the best option is individualized to his specific treatment needs. Choosing a urologist with whom a man can place significant trust and have open communication is a critical part of the treatment equation for every man (and his loved ones) faced with a prostate cancer diagnosis.
Prostate cancer is diagnosed in nearly 150,000 men each year in the United States. It is estimated that one in every ten men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. Just as many women make regular breast cancer screening an annual priority through mammography, so too should men (depending on age and risk factors) prioritize their prostate health. Cancer is always a serious concern – for all of us. Some types of prostate cancer are very slow-growing and may not become a problem for years, while others are considered "aggressive" and can spread quickly. And because there is no definitive way of knowing which type of prostate cancer any man diagnosed with it will have, we need to all to our part to ensure we receive annual checkups so that we ensure a positive outcome.