As we celebrate men’s health week, we take a closer look at prostate cancer.
World over, Prostate cancer has the highest incidence in men after lung cancer while in India it is one of top 10 cancers among men. The incidence rate of this cancer is lower compared to western countries but is rapidly increasing in India.
While early detection is important to remain cancer-free, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding prostate cancer.
Here are six common myths and facts about prostate cancer that can help you take the necessary steps including scheduling a consultation with your doctor and undergoing screening.
Myth #1: If I don’t have symptoms it means I don’t have prostate cancer
A common misconception that surrounds prostate cancer is that a patient would not have the condition if he is not experiencing any symptoms.
As with many other cancers, prostate cancer in the early stages does not cause any symptoms. Prostate cancer is detected typically during routine health check-ups and screening tests and not from symptoms alone.
Some of the symptoms, if present, include difficulty in urinating, frequent urination, urge to urinate frequently at night, a weak flow when you urinate and a feeling that your bladder hasn’t emptied properly. All these symptoms also happen with a benign condition called BPH but still they need to be investigated.
Myth #2: There is no family history of prostate cancer, so the chances that I will get the condition are low
Family history and genetics play a role in a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer. A man whose father or brother had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease but there is no specific hereditary correlation that has been found out. So we can say that Prostate cancer does not run in families.
The risk is further increased if the cancer was diagnosed in a family member at a younger age (less than 55 years old), or if it affected three or more family members.
However, other risk factors may contribute to the development of prostate cancer which includes age, ethnicity, cigarette smoking, obesity, and unhealthy diet habits.
Myth #3: Prostate cancer only affects older men
Prostate cancer is typically thought to be an ‘old man’s disease.’ Although prostate cancer risk rises with age, the condition has been seen in younger men in the age group of 40 and 59 as well but will be at a lower frequency.
More than 35% of the cases diagnosed are in men before the age of 65. Apart from age, other risk factors (as mentioned above) may also contribute to the development of prostate cancer.
Myth #4: There are no screening tests for prostate cancer
Screening tests are available but not everyone is required to take them. It’s best to discuss the benefits and risks of a screening test with your physician.
Baseline evaluation will include
- Family history of prostate cancer,
- If there is any personal or family history of high-risk germline mutations.
Here are the most common screening tests used for prostate cancer
- PSA blood test: PSA is a substance that is found in the blood. A high PSA score may be indicative of a prostate problem and will require further tests to be conducted.
- Digital Rectal Examination: This is conducted by a doctor in order to feel for any lumps or enlargements in the prostate. Although it is an uncomfortable procedure, it lasts less than a minute. If the DRE reveals any significant finding, biopsy may need to be performed.
Myth #5: A high PSA score always means prostate cancer
PSA levels normally increase with increasing age. There are many other reasons for a high PSA score from your blood test. One of the reasons could be a non-cancerous condition called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). This is usually characterized by difficulty in urinating etc.
If you suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI), you might end up with a high PSA score. Those with a UTI often complain of a burning sensation or pain when urinating and an increased frequency in the urge to urinate.
Prostatitis, infection, or inflamed prostate, could be another reason. Prostatitis could also cause a high PSA score. But these conditions generally do not drastically raise the PSA score so a score of 6 to 10 points to a possibility and 10 or above points to strong suspicion of prostate cancer.
But no matter what the reason, a high PSA score requires a visit to your physicians for further investigation. It is also important to note that sometimes we might not see a high PSA score in patients with prostate cancer.
Myth #6: Prostate cancer can lead to death
If diagnosed in an early stage and received the treatment on time, the survival rate is good. If treated, then the 5 year survival rate for local or regional prostate cancer is almost 100%. In the case of metastatic cancer, it is 38%. For both combined, prostate cancer has a 10-year survival rate of 98% as prostate cancer in the majority of cases has an indolent growth which means it is a slow-growing cancer unlike others.
To understand more about the causes, screening, and treatment options for prostate cancer, you can read in detail here.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer and looking for further advice regarding the treatment options, our care managers and the team of expert oncologists are here to guide you.