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What You Need to Know about Prostate Cancer

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease. Not including skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Who is at risk?

The prostate, located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum, is a part of the male reproductive system. While all men are at risk for prostate cancer, the older a man is, the greater the chance of him getting prostate cancer. Some men are at increased risk for prostate cancer. You are at increased risk for getting or dying from prostate cancer if you are African American or have a family history of prostate cancer. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your family’s health history.

Who should be screened?

According to CDC recommendations:

  • Men who are 55 to 69 years old should make individual decisions about being screened for prostate cancer with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
  • Before making a decision, men should talk to their doctor about the benefits and harms of screening for prostate cancer, including the benefits and harms of other tests and treatment.
  • Men who are 70 years old and older should not be screened for prostate cancer routinely.

Are there early warning signs?

Some men have no symptoms at all. If you have any of the following symptoms, be sure to see your doctor right away:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Urinating often, especially at night
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Painful ejaculation

What to expect with a screening

The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find cancers that may be at high risk for spreading if not treated, and to find them early. There are two tests that are commonly used to screen for prostate cancer: a blood test called a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test measures the level of PSA in the blood and a digital rectal examination. A biopsy of a small piece of tissue that is removed from the prostate may be indicated for diagnosing prostate cancer.

Treating prostate cancer

If diagnosed early, many prostate cancers grow slowly and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. Different types of treatment are available for prostate cancer, from watchful waiting and surveillance to surgery and radiation therapy. You and your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer and decide which treatment is right for you.

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