The month of September is Prostate Health Awareness Month. This gives us an opportunity to recognize and have critical conversations around prostate cancer.
Do all men need to get screened for prostate cancer?
Around the time you turn 40, you can have a discussion with your primary care provider about if and when you should begin screening for prostate cancer. The decision to screen for prostate cancer is an individual one based on factors such as age, health history, family history, symptoms and each person’s individual risk factors.
For men who decide to participate in a prostate screening, screenings typically occur during ages 55 to 69.
What is the prostate cancer screening process?
After your provider has reviewed your personal risk factors, getting screened for prostate cancer starts with a PSA blood test.
PSA stands for prostate specific antigen. This blood test screens for the levels of PSA in your blood. If the PSA in your blood is high, it can be a sign that you may have prostate cancer. There are many other factors that can increase the levels of PSA in your blood, such as race and age, which is why it’s important you work with your provider to learn what your results might mean for you.
Based on a man’s PSA, risk factors and other symptoms, you may also need a digital rectal exam. This involves a health care professional using their finger to detect any potential prostate abnormalities. This part of the screening is a simple exam that is completed quickly.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
All men are at risk for prostate cancer! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every 100 American men, about 13 will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime, and about two to three of these men will die from it.
The most common risk factor for prostate cancer is age. The older you get, the more likely you are to have an elevated PSA screening. In addition to having a family history of prostate cancer, African American men are also at a higher risk.
In most men, prostate cancer grows very slowly without any symptoms until later stages. Don’t wait for the symptoms to start as prostate cancer is typically curable when it’s caught early.
What are the prostate cancer symptoms to look out for?
The symptoms for prostate cancer are different for everyone. Some experience frequency with urination, pain or burning with urination, weak or interrupted flow of urination, difficulty emptying bladder, painful ejaculation and/or blood in urine or semen. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your primary care provider right away.
Other men experience little to no signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, which is why an annual discussion with your primary care provider is so important!