Here’s the good news: the rate at which American men are getting prostate cancer has been undergoing a fairly steady (and significant) decline for years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the bad news is that prostate cancer is still the second most common cancer in American men. This makes having a basic understanding about the disease, as well as your personal risk factors for getting it, as important as ever for men.
The prostate sits just below a man’s bladder, in front of the rectum, and surrounds the urethra. While its normal size is about that of a marble, it tends to grow as a man advances in age, which can put pressure along the urethra, affecting the flow of urine. Enlarging of the prostate is a relatively common occurrence, but, unfortunately, the symptoms of prostate cancer can be mistaken for the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. Therefore, it’s critical to see your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- A frequent urge to urinate, especially at night
- Difficulty controlling the flow of urine
- A weak, interrupted urine flow
- Pain during urination or ejaculation
- Difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or pressure in the rectum, lower back, hips, or thighs
Again, the problem with this list of symptoms is that it is eerily similar to those of other conditions, such as an enlarged prostate – which causes many men a great deal of discomfort, but for which many men may also procrastinate seeking treatment… a delay that can be deadly when we’re talking about something as serious as cancer.
(By the way, at Laredo Emergency Room, we do treat men who have experienced medical emergencies associated with enlarged prostates, and we can tell you that seeing your doctor sooner rather than later is best, even if you don’t suspect cancer as the culprit.)
When the above symptoms indicate the presence of cancerous tumors, it usually means the cancer is more advanced and more difficult to treat. That means screenings are essential to your men’s health routine – and can find the cancer before you experience significant symptoms. Laredo Emergency Room physicians advise our patients without symptoms to have prostate screening done yearly beginning at age 40 if you have a family history of prostate cancer, age 45 if you are African American, and by age 50 for everyone else.
To be screened for prostate cancer, you need only have a simple blood test called a PSA test, which measures the level of protein produced by the prostate. Some physicians will conduct a rectal exam in addition to a PSA test. Elevated PSA levels may prompt your doctor to ask you to undergo further testing.
When screening is this easy, it’s hard to understand why so many men put it off … so Laredo Emergency Room urges you to take control of your health and talk to your doctor – especially if you have any symptoms. Taking a little bit of time out of your busy schedule once a year as your doctor recommends can save your life.
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