Prostate Cancer is cancer of that walnut sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located beneath the urinary bladder and in front of the rectum.
So what’s the bottom line (excuse the pun)? Ask your doctor for an annual PSA test from the age of 45, and don’t let him or her talk you out of it”.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men other than skin cancer. Most American men will get prostate cancer if they live long enough. But many of them never experience any ill effects from the cancer, and typically die of natural causes having nothing to do with the prostate.
But for a significant number of men, it has the potential to grow and spread quickly. Prostate cancer feeds off testosterone and the younger you are when you contract it, the more testosterone you produce therefore the cancer can grow quickly.
But in these cases if detected early there is an extremely good chance of a cure.
If detected later there is almost no chance of a cure, only management. This is because the cancer has moved out of the prostate and into the blood stream and could then be anywhere in the body. This is described as ‘Advanced Prostate Cancer’. That’s what I have, detected when I was 51 years old.
So how is it detected? Men over 65 are at most risk, but if younger men get prostate cancer it is often aggressive. Sometimes there are little or no symptoms, and so it is best to have regular tests. Some say to test annually from the age of 50, but I’d say at least from the age of 45yrs old, and even younger if there is history of any cancer in your family (I was tested at age 51 and already it was too late to be cured, the cancer had most likely been growing for a number of years. My mother died from melanoma, aged 59).
The blood test for prostate cancer is called a PSA test (Prostate-Specific -Antigen). This test is very reliable at detecting prostate cancer but just because you have a high PSA does not necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. If the PSA is abnormal then you would have a biopsy to see if there was a malignancy.
To confuse matters even more, in a small minority of cases the PSA does not give a high reading even if someone has prostate cancer. This is why some doctors also give a DRE (Digital Rectal Examination). It can often pick up prostate cancer in these rare cases where the PSA reading is low.
So what’s the bottom line (excuse the pun)? Ask your doctor for an annual PSA test from the age of 45, and don’t let him or her talk you out of it. “Do you really want to know?” and “Most men die with it – not from it’” are typical responses from a doctor when you request a PSA test. That last statement may be correct but most ‘younger’ men (under 60) often die from it. (see my post ’PSA – To Test Or Not To Test for Prostate Cancer’). If there is history of cancer in your family I would recommend start testing at 40 yrs old.
It’s important to check annually because it is not so much the value of the PSA that is significant, but over time how that PSA reacts, i.e. remains stable or increases, and the rate it increases. So keep a record of those annual tests.
If you catch prostate cancer early, there is a very good possibility of a cure.