Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men after skin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Christopher Williams, MD, medical director of urologic oncology and robotic surgery at UF Health Jacksonville, shared some quick facts about prostate cancer.
What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland that makes a secretion called prostate-specific antigen or PSA. The PSA thins the ejaculate or semen, which allows it to flow more freely. The prostate also contains enzymes that change testosterone to a form more easily used by the body.
How is prostate cancer detected?
- A PSA blood test can determine if the body is more likely to harbor prostate cancer
- A digital rectal exam is used to detect abnormalities in the prostate
- If either of these tests is abnormal, a prostate biopsy is done to detect prostate cancer
Risk factors and symptoms
There really is no specific cause of prostate cancer that we know of, but researchers have identified some major risk factors:
- Age – A man’s chance of getting prostate cancer increases after age 50. Prostate cancer is found in two out of three men over the age of 65.
- Race – Prostate cancer is more common among black men. Prostate cancer occurs less often in Asian-Americans and Latino men than non-Hispanic whites.
- Family history – Men with immediate family members who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get it themselves, especially if the relatives were young at the time of diagnosis.
- Diet – Men who eat a lot of red meat or have a diet high in fat may have an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Men who eat fewer fruits and vegetables may also be at a higher risk.
Prostate cancer has no symptoms until it is in its advanced stages. At that point, men may find it difficult to urinate and have blood in the urine or semen.
Screening for prostate cancer
Early detection increases the chances of surviving prostate cancer. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends that men begin getting yearly screenings at age 45. Screenings should consist of a digital rectal exam as well as a PSA blood test.
Prostate cancer that is clinically localized or has not spread outside the prostate can be treated using:
- Radical prostatectomy – Removal of the prostate. This may be performed in a minimally invasive way, such as laparoscopically, using a robot, or it can be done through a traditional, larger incision.
- Radiation therapies – External beam (radiation focused on the prostate from outside the body) or brachytherapy (radioactive seeds placed in the prostate through the skin)
- Cryotherapy – The prostate is frozen and rapidly thawed using needles placed through the skin
For patients who have prostate cancer that has already progressed outside of the prostate, medications are available that limit the body’s production of or ability to use androgens, hormones that help prostate cancer growth. For prostate cancers that no longer respond to hormonal therapies, there are chemotherapeutic and other agents that attack prostate cancer cells throughout the body.
How can I avoid developing prostate cancer?
While there is no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, the best way to ensure you do not end up with an incurable cancer is to get screened early. Additionally, men who live a healthy lifestyle and have a healthy diet tend to do better during the treatment process and are less likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancers.
At UF Health Jacksonville, there is multidisciplinary team of genitourinary cancer specialists, including urological oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists. For more information about this program, please call 904-633-0411 or visit UFHealthJax.org/urology.