Men, Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Prostate Cancer Screening

Cancer Care, Men's Health, Urology Steward Health Care

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which means it is a good reminder to discuss how proper prevention, screening and, if necessary, treatment can address prostate cancer and other common disorders. Talking with your primary care physician will help you make an informed decision about prostate cancer screening.

All men have a prostate and that means that all men are at risk for prostate problems. And for the most part, these risks increase with age. In addition to the aging process, experts believe diet, race and heredity may all lead to prostate trouble. The three most common problems associated with the prostate are:

  • Prostatitis. This condition develops when the prostate swells or becomes inflamed, usually caused by bacterial infection.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). A normal prostate can also grow many times in size when hormonal changes occur after age 40, causing BPH.
  • Prostate cancer. Even though prostate cancer is one of the most diagnosed cancers in America, on average men have only a three percent risk of actually dying from the disease. Tumors are often slow-growing and highly treatable. However, patients sometimes experience no symptoms until the cancer has spread. Thus, early detection by your doctor is important.

Symptoms of prostate disease include pain, burning and difficulty in urinating, blood in the urine or semen, painful ejaculation, and lower back pain.

To Be Screened or Not to Be Screened

The medical community previously agreed that after a certain age, all men should be screened for prostate problems. However, the latest medical research suggests that prostate cancer screenings are no longer considered necessary for all men.

For this reason, it is important to talk to your health care provider about prostate screening and ask the following five questions:

  1. What is my personal risk for prostate cancer based on my age, race, and family history?
  2. What screening test do you recommend?
  3. What will the screening test results tell me?
  4. If the test results show I might have prostate cancer, what are the next steps?
  5. What are my choices for treating or not treating right away and if I receive treatment, what are the treatment choices?

For those who do decide to get screened, the most common exams include:

  • A digital rectal exam (DRE): Although some men consider this test embarrassing, it is a quick, simple procedure that could save your life.
  • A PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test: For men over 50 or earlier for men in high risk groups, such as African-Americans or those with a family history of prostate problems.
  • ExoDx: A new simple urine test that reduces the need for biopsy by up to 40 percent.

If diagnosed, a urologist can discuss and determine the best course of treatment for each individual patient. Treatments for prostatitis and BPH often include a low-fat diet and medications, while prostate cancer is typically treated with chemotherapy, surgery and/or radiation.

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