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Prostate cancer: Early screening is key to detection and treatment

  • More than 200,000 men in the US are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
  • The best way to catch prostate cancer early is to begin yearly screening at age 50, earlier if you are at higher risk.
  • Risk factors include being 55 or older, being Black, and having a close family member who has had prostate cancer.

The prostate gland is a small, walnut-shaped structure between the bladder and the penis. Almost 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. It most often impacts men over age 60. It is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer. The good news is that prostate cancer can often be successfully monitored and treated when it is detected early. That’s why it’s important to talk to your primary care provider about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • being 55 or older
  • being Black
  • having a close family member (father, brother, son) who has had prostate cancer.

Screening for prostate cancer

By age 50, about half of all men have small changes in the size and shape of the cells in their prostate. This is called prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), which can be a precursor to cancer. If PIN is present, the best strategy is to have a biopsy to check for cancer. If PIN is the only finding, then yearly follow-up screening with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) is recommended.

If your PSA result is above the expected range, your provider will talk to you about what the reading means. This conversation will include information on your risks, and monitoring and cancer treatment options so you can make an informed decision about your health.

Prostate cancer symptoms can include:

  • the need to urinate often, especially at night
  • difficulty starting urination or holding back urine (urinary hesitancy)
  • inability to urinate
  • weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • painful or burning urination
  • difficulty in having an erection
  • painful ejaculation
  • blood in urine or semen
  • frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
  • trouble emptying the bladder completely

Treatment for prostate cancer

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on your age and general health, the stage and grade of the cancer, whether or not it has spread, and side effects of treatment.

Can you prevent prostate cancer?

Ask your primary care provider how to lower your risk of prostate cancer. These may recommend lifestyle changes, such as a diet lower in animal fats and high in fruits and vegetables and more exercise. There are no medicines or supplements approved by the FDA for preventing prostate cancer.

The best advice to catch prostate cancer early is to see a primary care provider yearly with a prostate cancer screen starting at age 50 if you're at average risk. Consider screening earlier if you’re at high risk.  


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