Prostate Cancer: Just the Facts

September Brings Awareness to Disease

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men in the US, other than skin cancer.

Prostate cancer starts in the cells of the prostate gland, which in men this gland sits just below the bladder. The size of the prostate usually changes with age. In younger men it is approximately the size of a walnut but can be much larger in older men.

More than 3.1 million men living in the U.S. today have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point. Although the death rates from prostate cancer are going down in most ethnic groups, it is still the second-leading cause of cancer death for men in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.


Who is at risk?

As a man gets older, his chance of getting prostate cancer increases. About 6 of every 10 prostate cancers are found in men age 65 and older. It may be diagnosed in younger men but is rare before age 40.

  • African American men have higher rates of prostate cancer than white men.
  • African American men also are more than twice as likely to die of prostate cancer than white men. But in recent years, death rates in African American men have gone down faster than in white men.
  • Men are more likely to get prostate cancer if they have close family members such as a father, brother or son who have had prostate cancer.
  • Men who eat a lot of red meat or high-fat dairy products and few fruits and vegetables seem to have a slightly higher chance of getting prostate cancer, though more research is needed on the effect of diet on prostate cancer risk.


What are the symptoms?

Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms, and men who have prostate cancer can be symptom-free for years. But as it grows, prostate cancer can cause some symptoms. Men should see a health care provider if they:

  • Have to urinate often, especially at night.
  • Have trouble starting or stopping urine flow.
  • Have a weak or slow urine flow.
  • See blood in the urine or semen.
  • Have trouble getting an erection.
  • Feel frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or ribs.


Why should I have the test?

The American Cancer Society recommends that men talk with a health care provider so they can make an informed decision about being tested for prostate cancer.

  • Prostate cancer probably will be found earlier if testing is done than if no testing is done.
  • The talk about testing should take place at age 50 for men who are at average risk for prostate cancer.
  • The same talk should take place starting at age 45 for men who are at high risk for prostate cancer. This includes African American men and men who have a father, brother or son who was diagnosed with prostate cancer when they were younger than 65.
  • The talk should take place at age 40 for men who are at even higher risk – those with more than one close relative who had prostate cancer before age 65.