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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Hey, Guys: Quit Ignoring Prostate Cancer!

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the U.S. Approximately one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. This year alone, 160,000 men will be diagnosed with the disease.

The prostate is found men just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The size of the prostate changes with age: In younger men, it’s about the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow uncontrollably.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer that’s detected early—when it’s still confined to the prostate gland—has a better chance of successful treatment.

Are You at Risk?

Unfortunately, all men are at risk for prostate cancer, but those with the following risk factors are at higher risk of developing the disease. Conversely, you are not immune if these risk factors don’t apply to you.


The risk of prostate cancer grows significantly as men grow older. Most medical professionals recommend men start discussing prostate cancer risk and testing options with their doctor in their 40s, or even earlier if they have additional risk factors. The majority of men with prostate cancer are over 50, and a significant majority are over the age of 65. However, there are cases of prostate cancer in men in their 20s and 30s, some of which have been very aggressive.


For reasons that remain unclear, African-American men are 1.7 times more likely to get the disease and 2.3 times more likely to die from the disease than white men. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.

Family History

Some men have a genetic predisposition to prostate cancer. A man with at least one close relative who has had the disease has twice the risk of having prostate cancer compared to the general population. Current research is underway to identify certain genes and gene mutations that would put a man at higher risk for developing the disease.


Men who consume large amounts of fat, particularly animal fat, are most likely to develop prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is far more common in countries with a high intake of meat and dairy products compared to nations where diets largely consist of rice, soy, and vegetables.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a person with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese. Several studies have indicated that obesity is tied to prostate cancer aggressiveness. One study found that prostate cancer risk for African-American men may be more strongly affected by obesity than that in white men.

The risk of dying from prostate cancer is more than double in obese men diagnosed with the disease compared with men of normal weight at the time of diagnosis. Obese men with local or regional disease have also been shown to have nearly four times the risk of their cancer spreading beyond the prostate.

Signs & Symptoms

During the early stages of prostate cancer, there are no symptoms. That’s why screenings and yearly check-ups are critically important in catching cancer early, before it spreads outside the prostate. Most prostate cancer is found as a result of prostate cancer screening tests, most commonly a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test and a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE).

A recent survey by Zero – The End of Prostate Cancer, asked men how they learned they had prostate cancer. Only 5.24 percent learned they had prostate cancer because of urinary or erectile symptoms. The overwhelming majority, 94 percent, learned about their diagnosis from early detection through a screening test.

Because of the proximity of the prostate gland in relation to the bladder and urethra, prostate cancer may be accompanied by a variety of urinary symptoms. Depending on the size and location, a tumor may press on and constrict the urethra, inhibiting the flow of urine. Symptoms can include:

  • Strong urge to urinate immediately;
  • Frequent nighttime urination;
  • Pain and/or burning when urinating;
  • Difficulty starting the urinary stream;
  • A weak urinary stream once it starts;
  • Dribbling after you’re finished;
  • Pain in the genital and pelvic area;
  • Pain when ejaculating;
  • Blood in the urine or semen; and
  • Frequent urinary tract infections.

Other, and more serious, prostate cancer symptoms may include:

  • Unexpected weight loss;
  • Pain in the lower back or pelvic area;
  • Anemia.

Immediately schedule a visit with your doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms outlined above.

Take the Test

Detecting prostate cancer early gives you the best chance of living longer. In fact, when it is caught early, the five-year survival rate is over 99 percent. A general practitioner or urologist can perform a full prostate cancer exam. This would usually include a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam, also called a DRE.

A PSA screening measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The levels of PSA in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer. The PSA level may also be elevated in other conditions.

A DRE test is done when a doctor or nurse inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to estimate the size of the prostate and feel for lumps or other abnormalities.

If a DRE or PSA test detects an abnormality, your doctor may recommend further tests to determine whether you have prostate cancer.

Early detection and advances in treatment are saving lives. Finding prostate cancer when it’s still at an early stage offers the best hope for living cancer free for a long time. The most recent research shows the five-year survival rate for all men with prostate cancer is nearly 100 percent. The relative 10-year survival rate is 98 percent, and 96 percent for 15 years.

Tips for Prevention

There’s no sure way to prevent prostate cancer. In general, doctors recommend that men with an average risk of prostate cancer make choices that benefit their overall health if they’re interested in prostate cancer prevention.

Change Your Diet

There’s some evidence that choosing a healthy diet that’s low in fat and full of fruits and vegetables may contribute to a lower risk of prostate cancer, though this hasn’t been proved concretely.

To reduce your risk of prostate cancer, consider a low-fat diet. To lower the amount of fat you eat each day, limit fatty foods or choose low-fat varieties. For instance, reduce the amount of fat you add to foods when cooking, select leaner cuts of meat, and choose low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products.

Eat more fat from plants than from animals. In studies that looked at fat consumption and prostate cancer risk, fats from animals were most likely to be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Animal products that contain fats include meat, lard, and butter.

Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat daily—they are full of vitamins and nutrients that are thought to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Eating more fruits and vegetables also tends to make you have less room for other foods, such as high-fat foods.

Fatty fish—such as salmon, tuna, and herring—contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fatty acid linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. If you don’t currently eat fish, you might consider adding it to your diet.

Reduce the number of dairy products you eat each day. In studies, men who ate the most dairy products—such as milk, cheese, and yogurt—each day had the highest risk of prostate cancer.

Watch Your Weight

Men who are obese may have an increased risk of prostate cancer. If you are overweight or obese, work on losing weight. You can do this by reducing the number of calories you eat each day and increasing the amount of exercise you do.

If you have a healthy weight, work to maintain it by exercising most days of the week and choosing a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Work it Out

Studies of exercise and prostate cancer risk have mostly shown that men who exercise may have a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Exercise has many other health benefits and may reduce your risk of heart disease and other cancers as well as help you maintain your weight.

If you don’t already exercise, make an appointment with your doctor to make sure it’s okay for you to get started. When you begin exercising, go slowly. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care by calling (252) 633-4111 or visiting

(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mayo Clinic; National Institutes of Health; American Cancer Society; World Health Organization; National Cancer Institute; Zero – The End of Prostate Cancer; and Urology Care Foundation.)