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What Every Man Should Know About Prostate Cancer

What Every Man Should Know About Prostate Cancer
Early Detection Best Line of Defense

M. D. Anderson News Release, 09/23/03

If there were a known danger in your community, wouldn’t you want to know so you could do something about it?

According to the American Cancer Society, one man in six will get prostate cancer in his lifetime. In fact, after skin cancer, it is the most common cancer diagnosis in men. While a cancer diagnosis can be frightening, with earlier detection and better treatment options, survival rates for prostate cancer have improved.

The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system, located just above the bladder. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate begin multiplying and dividing uncontrollably. As the cancer advances, it damages the surrounding tissue and interferes with the prostate’s normal function. Going undetected, the cancer cells can then spread to other parts of the body.

According to Curtis Pettaway, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Urology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, researchers have not unlocked all the clues to understanding why one person develops cancer and another does not, but they are studying factors that may increase a man’s risk of this disease:

  • Age. The most common risk factor is age. In the United States, prostate cancer occurs more frequently in men over age 55. 
  • Family history. Prostate cancer tends to run in families. If a man’s father or brother has had the disease, the man has an increased risk.
  • Race. African-American men have the highest occurrence of this disease – approximately 60% higher than Caucasian men. 
  • Diet. Some evidence suggests that a diet high in animal fat may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

Early detection is best defense in the battle against prostate cancer because it can help catch the disease at its most treatable stage. Researchers at M. D. Anderson recommend that by age 50 men undergo annual screenings; African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are encouraged to begin screening at age 45.

A complete screening includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE), which together help identify the disease at its earliest and most treatable stage.

“Since making both these tests a part of routine screenings, doctors are now detecting prostate cancer in its earliest stages,” Pettaway says. All men are encouraged to follow the routine screening recommendations since the disease is often caught before symptoms develop. 

Some symptoms of prostate cancer may include the following:

  • Painful or burning urination 
  • Difficulty in starting to urinate or urinary incontinence
  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate, especially at night 
  • Weak or interrupted urine flow
  • Difficulty in having an erection 
  • Blood in the urine or semen 
  • Frequent pain in the lower back, pelvis or thighs

Because prostate cancer can develop slowly over time, a man with the disease may not experience any symptoms. The presence of these symptoms however could be the result of prostate cancer or another condition and should prompt men to seek a medical evaluation.

Prostate cancer may be exclusive to men, but by sharing information and providing encouragement, women can help men make healthy choices about their health care. When armed with the right information, women are often the positive influence some men may need to be more proactive regarding their health care.

Progress has been made against prostate cancer in recent years, providing better information, more effective diagnostic tools, advanced treatment options and, as a result, improved survival rates. Several clinical trials are also ongoing at M. D. Anderson to understand more about the disease, its risk factors and determine ways of preventing prostate cancer.

For more information about prostate cancer, early detection and treatment options, call the
M. D. Anderson Information Line at 1-800-392-1611.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center