Men Should Be Aware of Prostate Cancer Concerns

Aside from skin cancers, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men and early detection is essential to prevent serious illness. Here is what you need to know.


According to Dr. William Boykin, an urologist in Winchester, Tennessee, approximately 20% of males will get prostate cancer during their lifetime. Whether that cancer is symptomatic or not depends on the case.

The American Cancer Society recommends men over the age of 50 have prostate exams on a yearly basis and if you have a family history or are African American it is important to have the exam yearly after the age of 40.

According to the St. Thomas Health Services, African American men have the highest prostate cancer incidence rate in the world and are twice are likely to be diagnosed as other American men. The risk of developing cancer also doubles if a man's father, brother or uncle were diagnosed with the disease.

What is prostate cancer?

The prostate, about the size a walnut, is one of the male sex glands located just below the urinary bladder and surrounding the upper part of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder and semen from the sex glands).

In the male body, the prostate, testicles and the seminal vesicles, all sex glands affecting by male sex hormones are responsible for secreting the fluids that make up semen.

"The cause of prostate cancer is unknown," said Boykin. "There is lots of research, some of which have done, that is trying to pinpoint diet and environmental causes, but at this point nothing can be proven."

According to the St. Thomas Health Services results of most studies on prostate cancer suggest a diet containing a high amount of fat have coincided with males developing prostate cancer. Other research indicates men with a high-fat diet who tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more dairy products, have an increasing risk factor than the amount of fat alone.

Though all of these dietary factors remain unproven, it is known the growth of cancer cells in the prostate, as is the case with normal prostate cells, is stimulated by male hormones, especially testosterone.

According to the American Cancer Society in some men the cancer grows slowly, while in other more rapidly, truly varying from case to case.

"The thing people have to realize about prostate cancer is that the most common symptom is no symptom," said Boykin. "That is why is it very important that males over the age of fifty get yearly examinations."

According to Boykin, there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer. When the tumor growth becomes more advanced however, urinary symptoms may develop such as frequent urination or inability to urinate, trouble starting or holding back urination and frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back or hips.

Urinary problems are a direct result of the growth or swelling of the prostate. Enlargement of the prostate can result in the squeezing of the urethra. When a cancerous tumor is small it is very hard to detect and a simple rectal examination is quite often insufficient, as the doctor can't feel anything. Therefore a male can live for many years without ever realizing he is carrying the disease.

According to the St. Thomas Health Services the PSA blood tests measure proteins made by prostate cells, the higher the level, the more likely cancer is present. The DRE exams involve inserting a rubber-gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel for lumps or abnormalities.

"The PSA is awesome because can detect the cancer when it is still tiny, the size of a pinhead," said Boykin. "Together both tests take about five minutes to perform."

There are a number of ways of treating prostate cancer depending on the size of the cancer and whether or not is has spread. Surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy and watchful waiting are all treatment methods used.

"Early detection of prostate cancer can save your life," said Boykin. "The sooner prostate cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat."

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