If you have a husband, father, son, brother, uncle or male friend, you know someone who should be screened for prostate cancer. Many women are unaware that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, with only skin cancer being more prevalent. The American Cancer Society estimates that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and more than 28,000 men will die from the disease this year.
“Men are often reluctant to undergo screening for prostate cancer because they’re embarrassed about the test, or they’re afraid of the results they may receive,” says Dr. Joph Steckel, vice chairman of Urology at North Shore University Hospital. “However, the reality is that cancer will either be found early through screening or later when symptoms develop. If it is detected early, treatment is highly effective.”
Because cancer affects everyone in a family, it’s important for women to know the basics of this common disease. The following five questions are frequently asked by women, as well as the men in their lives.
- What exactly is a prostate?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of a man’s reproductive system found between the rectum and the bladder. It helps to produce some of the liquid that carries sperm and helps regulate bladder control and sexual function.
- Who is at risk of developing prostate cancer?
All men are at risk of getting prostate cancer as they age. This risk is higher if there is a family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing the disease (source: Cancer.org). More than 80 percent of all men over the age of 80 are found to have some form of prostate cancer (source: American Cancer Society).
- Are there any other risk factors besides family history and age?
Yes, the highest incidence of prostate cancer occurs in African-American men, and they are twice as likely to die from the disease. There is also some evidence that a high-fat diet may be a contributing factor in the development of prostate cancer.
- How can prostate cancer be detected?
There has been recent media attention on prostate cancer screening guidelines with various health organizations setting conflicting recommendations. According to the American Urological Association (AUA), the most effective early detection options are a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam (DRE). The AUA recommends a baseline PSA and DRE at age 40. Patients and physicians should discuss risk factors and the frequency of future screenings. PSA values should be watched over time as significant increases signal the need for more testing.
- What is the survival rate if it is detected?
Unlike many other types of cancer, prostate cancer that is diagnosed early is highly treatable. According to the National Cancer Institute, the five-year survival rate of prostate cancer that remains contained in the prostate is nearly 100 percent. However, if the cancer has spread, the survival rate decreases significantly.
Encouraging the Men in Your Life to Get Screened
Women play an important part in the health and wellbeing of the men in their lives. One of the best ways to encourage a man to stay proactive with his health is to encourage him to get an annual physical that includes a prostate exam. “Treatments for early stage prostate cancer have greatly improved in recent years,” says Dr. Steckel. “An exam offers both peace of mind and the ability to treat prostate cancer with the least invasive forms of treatment.”
Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about cancer detection and prevention. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak to a women’s health specialist.