Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. About one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. In Anne Arundel County, prostate cancer is one of the top three leading causes of cancer deaths among men, along with lung cancer and colorectal cancer. The rate for black men is much higher than all other races and ethnic groups.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder (the organ that collects and empties urine) and in front of the rectum (the lower part of the intestine). It is found only in men. The size of the prostate varies with age. In younger men, it is about the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder), and its job is to make the fluid that protects and nourishes sperms cells in semen.
What is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the prostate. Several types of cells are found in the prostate, but almost all prostate cancers develop from the gland cells. Gland cells make the prostate fluid that is added to the semen.
What are the symptoms?
These symptoms may be caused by prostate cancer. A medical provider should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
- Urination problems, such as pain, burning, increased frequency, or a weak or interrupted flow
- Blood in the urine or semen
- A pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn't go away
- Painful ejaculation
What are some risk factors for prostate cancer?
If you have any questions or concerns about prostate cancer symptoms or risk factors, talk to your health care provider.
- Age - Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. The chance for prostate cancer increases as you get older and rises rapidly after age 50. Almost two out of three prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.
- Family History - Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles the risk of developing this disease. The risk is even higher for those men with several affected relatives, especially if those relatives were diagnosed at a young age.
- Race and Ethnicity - Prostate cancer occurs more often in black men than in men of other races. Black men are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, making them more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer as white men. It occurs less often in Asian-American and Hispanic/Latino men than in non-Hispanic whites. In Maryland, mortality rates from prostate cancer have decreased at a greater rate over the past five years for black men than for white men, but the rates for black men remain higher overall.
What are ways to screen for prostate cancer?
Both the exam and the test can detect a problem in the prostate. However, they cannot show whether the problem is cancer or a less serious condition. If you have abnormal test results, your health care provider may suggest other tests to make a diagnosis.
- Digital Rectal Exam
A digital rectum exam is an exam of the rectum. The health care provider inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the lower part of the rectum and feels the prostate through the rectal wall to check for lumps or anything else that seems unusual.
- The Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test
Made by the prostate gland, PSA is a protein which can be measured with a blood test. The amount of PSA in the blood can rise naturally as men age or if problems with the prostate are present. Sometimes the level of PSA may rise in men who have prostate cancer.
See Health Tips for men about prostate cancer (PDF).
Are there ways I can reduce my risk for cancer?
Some studies have suggested that people may be at an increased risk for cancer due to several lifestyle factors. The following lifestyle factors may contribute to an increased risk:
If you think you may be at risk, talk to your health care provider, who may be able to suggest ways to reduce your risk and can plan an appropriate schedule for screening.
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Diet low in fiber and high in fat
- Overweight and obesity
- Alcohol consumption
- Tobacco use
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Quality health care is a team effort, and you play an important role! One of the best ways to communicate effectively with your doctor is by asking questions. For information to help you be more involved in your health care, click here. This site provides helpful suggestions for before, during and after your doctor's visits.
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View these websites for more information about prostate cancer:
Anne Arundel County Department of Health Links: