It’s no secret prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers among men. In fact, nearly one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. What many may not know is if caught early, prostate cancer can be easily treated and even cured. That’s why experts at ECU Health are urging men who have delayed getting a prostate cancer screening to return to their regular screenings to prevent advanced prostate cancer diagnoses.
The prostate, which only exists in men, is a walnut-sized gland tucked under the bladder and is involved in the reproductive process. The prostate can develop cancer and is one of the leading cancers diagnosed in men.
“We love to catch prostate cancer before there are any signs or symptoms. In order to do that, you need a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen, commonly known as a PSA blood test,” said Dr. Caroline Ames, ECU Health urologist. “Because the prostate is tucked up under the bladder, you may not have symptoms until it’s advanced.”
Dr. Ames says if prostate cancer grows large enough that it is causing symptoms, there may be blood in the urine or semen or difficulty urinating. More advanced stages can present symptoms such as bone pain, weight loss and swollen lymph nodes.
“Many of the people we take care of in eastern North Carolina are high risk for prostate cancer, especially African American and Latino men between the ages of 45 and 65,” said Dr. Ames.
African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and twice as likely to die from prostate cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white men, according to the Office of Minority Health.
“This is likely due to genetics, lack of access to health care, general mistrust in health care and socioeconomic factors,” said Dr. Ames. “Those men with a family history of prostate cancer and men over the age of 65 who take one or two medications and are overall healthy, need a PSA screening every year.”
The screening process may look a bit different from what many may have experienced before. Dr. Ames, along with many other urologists, now do the blood PSA screening as the first line of screening. These providers will do a physical exam after the PSA screening indicates cause for concern. According to Dr. Ames, this method has brought in many more men for prostate screenings that may have not gotten one before due to anxiety or hesitancy of the physical exam. Men are encouraged to talk to their provider about the screening process.
“If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, we will look at all of the treatment options available,” said Dr. Ames. “While some with low-risk disease may not need aggressive treatment, there are options available such as hormone therapy, radiation or prostate removal.”
The best treatment is prevention. Eating a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods and red meat can help reduce your risk of prostate cancer, along with quitting smoking.
“Obesity and smoking are two of the leading causes of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Ames. “Once you have been diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer, obesity increases the risk for the cancer coming back in the future.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, screenings across the board significantly lowered. This is a significant concern amongst medical experts.
“Many people postponed their cancer screenings, and we are very concerned about that,” said Dr. Ames. “This increases the chance for a larger number of patients to be diagnosed with advanced or later stage cancers, including prostate cancer.”
The bottom line?
“You need to return to your cancer screenings, whether it be prostate, breast, lung or colon cancer screenings, especially if you skipped them during COVID-19,” Dr. Ames said. “Early detection can save lives.”