It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds the urethra (the tube which empties urine from the bladder). The prostate gland produces fluid which makes up part of the semen.
According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer affecting men in the United States. An estimated 223,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007. More than seventy percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year are over the age of 65. African American men have a higher risk of the disease than Caucasian men.
There are no noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer while it is still in the early stages, making the PSA test a critical screening tool. The optimal time for prostate cancer treatment is before symptoms appear. In more advanced stages, symptoms may include difficult or frequent urination, blood in the urine or bone pain.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
- Risk of prostate cancer increases with age. Prostate cancer is rare for men under the age of 40, and most cases occur in men over the age of 65.
- Men with a father or brother with prostate cancer are 2x as likely to get the disease. Men with 3 relatives diagnosed with prostate cancer are nearly certain to develop prostate cancer.
- African American men have a 60% higher risk of getting prostate cancer than Caucasian men, and twice the risk of dying from it. Asian men have a risk of getting prostate cancer similar to the general population, but rates of death due to the disease have not declined over recent years as they have for Caucasian and African American men.
- Veterans of Asian Theaters, who were exposed to Agent Orange, are at increased risk.
- Obese men – those with a body mass index of over 32.5 – are 33% more likely to die from prostate cancer if diagnosed.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Prostate cancer screening consists of two examinations:
A blood test that measures levels of Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA test. Annual PSA test screening should start at age 50 for the general population, but the right age to start the PSA test depends on the individual’s level of risk.*
A physical exam of the prostate, the Digital Rectal Exam or DRE. A quick and painless physical exam, where the doctor feels for bumps or abnormalities on the surface of the prostate which might indicate tumor growth. The word “digital” refers to the use of a finger, not a computer. If a bump or abnormality is found, a biopsy is needed to determine whether prostate cancer exists.*
*The PSA test and DRE should be done concurrently to increase the accuracy of prostate cancer diagnosis and enable early prostate cancer treatment.
Prostate Cancer Screening And PSA Test Considerations
- Annual screening with a PSA test should start at age 50 for the general population.
- Men with one risk factor should get their first PSA test at age 45.
- Men with more than one risk factor should start annual the PSA test at age 40.
- Some men choose to take a single PSA test earlier, at age 35 or 40, to establish a “baseline” PSA level for future comparison.
Where To Get A Prostate Cancer PSA Test
- A primary care physician can do both the PSA test and physical examination.
- Those who cannot afford a doctor visit, should call a local hospital or clinic to learn about free screening.
Prostate Cancer Prevention
There are no known ways to prevent prostate cancer. Adopting a healthy lifestyle consisting of regular exercise and limiting consumption of saturated fat found in red meat and dairy products can lower risk. Studies show a strong correlation between saturated fat consumption and increased rates of prostate cancer diagnosis and mortality. Diets rich in cancer fighting nutrients such as Vitamin E, Selenium, soy, green tea, and tomatoes appear to mitigate the risks of prostate cancer. Studies are underway to confirm these findings, and more cancer-fighting nutrients are continuously being discovered and studied.
Prostate Cancer Treatment Surgical Options
1. Open Prostatectomy
This prostate cancer treatment involves major abdominal surgery and is not the preferred prostate cancer treatment as it commonly results in substantial blood loss, a lengthy and uncomfortable recovery and the risk of impotence and incontinence. Prostate cancer treatment surgical alternatives, laparoscopic prostatectomy or da Vinci robotic prostatectomy, offer a better experience.
2. Laparoscopic Prostatectomy
One of the most common prostate cancer treatments for the surgical removal of the prostate gland is known as Laparoscopic Prostatectomy, or Radical Prostatectomy. Traditional radical prostatectomy requires a large 8-10 inch incision.
3. da Vinci Robotic Surgery: A Less Invasive Surgical Procedure:
If surgery is the recommended prostate cancer treatment, a da Vinci Robotic Surgery, a less-invasive surgical procedure called robotic prostate surgery may be the right option. Robotic surgery incorporates a state-of-the-art surgical system which enables a precise surgical procedure with reduced risks, minimal side-effects, and quick recovery time for patients.
da Vinci Robotic Prostate Surgery Benefits
- Shorter hospital stay
- Less pain
- Less risk of infection
- Less blood loss and fewer transfusions
- Less scarring
- Faster recovery
- Quicker return to normal activities