Prostate Cancer: What are the risk factors and when should I start getting screened?

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Courtesy of DHR Health

By: Lee Drinkard, MD, FACP
DHR Health Oncology Institute

Prostate cancer is an abnormal growth of cells causing tumors that start in the prostate gland.  The prostate gland is a gland that helps sperm flow that sits between the bladder and the tube called the urethra that carries urine.  The tumor starts inside the gland and can spread outside of the gland into surrounding organs and throughout the body, including the bones and lungs.

Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer in men in the United States.  For an American male, there is a 12% risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.  Prostate cancer risk increases with age.  Prostate cancer is found in only 2% of men 20-30 years old but can be found in up to 73% of men over age 80.

Prostate cancer is seen in all races being highest in African American men and lower in white and Hispanic men.  Other risk factors for prostate cancer include a family history of prostate cancer or other cancers and a diet high in animal fat but low in vegetables.

The good news is that although prostate cancer is a common cancer in men, it is not always fatal since, although up to 73% of men can be diagnosed with prostate cancer, only 2% of men die because of prostate cancer.  More good news is that there also is a blood test available from your doctor called the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) that can help detect prostate cancer early to cure it potentially.  Recommendations for testing or screening men for prostate cancer with the PSA test change over time.  Your doctor is familiar with these recommendations, and this would be a great conversation to start having with him or her at around age 50. 

If the PSA is high, your doctor may recommend a particular x-ray called an MRI (Magnetic Resonance imaging), or a sampling of the gland called a biopsy.

If prostate cancer is found, treatment options include just following it periodically without any treatment to see if it turns more aggressive in the future.  Treatments for more aggressive cancers include surgery and/or radiation therapy.  Any of these modalities can also be combined with hormone-blocking drugs to shrink the cancer.

Since prostate cancer starts in a male gland, it grows with testosterone, the male hormone.  Decreasing testosterone or blocking it, shrinks or kills prostate cancer.

Blocking or suppressing testosterone is also the primary way of treating more advanced cancers to control it when you cannot cure it.  Chemotherapy is used with these other treatments for very aggressive cancers.

The American Cancer Society has a good website full of information on prostate cancer:

DHR Health can help guide you through the process, of prostate cancer including risks, screening, diagnosis and treatment.  If you or a loved one would like more information about prostate cancer or about the treatment options available, please call DHR Health Urology Institute at (956) 362-8767 or DHR Health Oncology Institute at (956) 362-2250.