These days, it’s easy to Google any disease or symptom and read more than you ever thought you needed to know about the topic. And although information is power, sometimes it’s hard to sort through fact and fiction. Oftentimes, myths persist and you’re not sure what to believe. That’s why, when it comes to topics such as prostate cancer, you want to make sure you’re getting just the facts.
Separating Fact from Fiction
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which is a great time to get the facts straight on prostate cancer.
- Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer affecting men in the United States.
- One in eight American men will have prostate cancer during their lifetime.
- If prostate cancer is detected early, it’s highly treatable.
- Age, race/ethnicity, family history, and inherited genetic changes are the top risk factors for prostate cancer.
Myth: Prostate cancer is only a concern if you’re over 70.
Fact: Although the risk of prostate cancer increases with age, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, 35 percent of those diagnosed with prostate cancer (more than 57,000 each year) are under age 65. In addition, race/ethnicity are also a factor. Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at a younger age (and at a more advanced stage).
Myth: If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t have to worry about prostate cancer.
Fact: Prostate cancer is one of the most asymptomatic cancers. People in the early stages of prostate cancer rarely have symptoms. Or if they do display symptoms, they can be mistaken for something else. These symptoms may include:
- Frequent, difficult, or painful urination
- Weak or interrupted flow of urination
- Pain in the lower back or pelvis/groin area
- Trouble having an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Unexplained loss of weight or appetite
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Bone pain
Because prostate cancer is often asymptomatic, routine check-ups are crucial for early detection.
Myth: If you don’t have a family history of prostate cancer, you don’t have to worry about it.
Fact: Family history does play a part in prostate cancer risk. Those who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, son) who was diagnosed with prostate cancer have an increased risk of the disease. There also seems to be a connection with other types of cancer. So if other members of your family have been diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer, you may be at an increased risk of prostate cancer. That said, it’s important to note that most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer have no family history of the disease.
Myth: A prostate cancer diagnosis leads to immediate treatment.
Fact: Treatment options vary depending on the cancer stage at diagnosis. For example, doctors may recommend “active surveillance” or “watchful waiting” for those who are asymptomatic and have an early-stage, slow-growing form of prostate cancer. What do these approaches entail?
- Watchful waiting means only treating the person if they develop symptoms.
- Active surveillance usually involves monitoring the cancer closely, sometimes through frequent prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests, digital rectal exams, prostate biopsies, and imaging tests. Doctors also closely monitor symptoms.
These approaches are highly individualistic and depend on the disease stage, age at diagnosis, risk tolerance, and consideration of quality of life. If you have any questions about prostate cancer, or possible treatment, talk to your doctor.
For more information on prostate cancer, check out these resources: