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One of the most important health issues facing men is prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men.
Prostate cancer affects many men every year, although specific groups of men are much more likely to be diagnosed:
The statistics around prostate cancer aren't entirely discouraging. It has one of the best outlooks of any cancer diagnosis:
Most risk factors for prostate cancer are uncontrollable: age, race, and family history play a large part in developing it. Older men are much more susceptible to it; in fact, by age 80 about 80% of men have cancer cells in their prostate. Men who have a father or brother who have had prostate cancer as twice as likely to develop it. And black men in America have a higher chance of developing it than white men, while Hispanic men have a lower chance than either of these two groups.
That's not to say that environmental factors are not involved. Studies suggest that poor dietary habits and lack of exercise play a part in the development of prostate cancer. Although no conclusive link has been proven, prostate cancer rates increase in countries where meat and dairy products are major dietary components, and have also shown an increase in urbanized areas of countries with typically low rates.
Doctors suggest the following changes to decrease your general cancer risk:
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself against prostate cancer is getting properly screened. You should start discussing screening options with your doctor at age 40. Most doctors suggest beginning yearly screening at age 50, or age 45 for black men.
There are two major types of prostate cancer screening:
Digital rectal exam: this involves the doctor feeling the prostate through the rectum, searching for irregularities like hard or lumpy nodules that may indicate prostate cancer. This is the most common form of screening.
PSA blood test: this test looks for a substance made by the prostate, known as prostate-specific antigen (PSA). While the test is useful, many men with elevated PSA levels do not necessarily have prostate cancer. To confirm the findings of either of these tests, a biopsy of prostate cells is necessary.
Early-stage prostate cancer often has no symptoms and is found through the screening methods above. If symptoms occur, it's typically a later-stage cancer. Symptoms can include:
These conditions are not exclusive to prostate cancer, so consult with your doctor if you're experiencing them.
If prostate cancer has spread, the following symptoms may occur: