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Prostate Cancer Risks, Signs, Symptoms and Screening

Topics: Cancer Risks, Signs & Symptoms, Prostate Cancer

August 11, 2020

Prostate Cancer Risks, Signs, Symptoms and Screening

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Learning the facts about the risk factors, screenings, and symptoms can help you understand your risks and create a personal medical plan.

Risk Factors of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer typically has nothing to do with your lifestyle or personal habits. However, there are certain indicators that could signal you are at an increased risk of getting the disease. If you have a combination of risk factors, your doctor may suggest you have certain screenings earlier or more often than what is generally recommended.

Men with one or more of the following indicators should be sure they're screened regularly for prostate cancer.

  • Age 50 or older with an average risk level
  • Have a family history of prostate cancer
  • Have a female relative (mother, sister, or aunt) who has or had BRCA positive breast cancer
  • African descent

Prostate Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Early-stage prostate cancer typically has no symptoms. That's why routine screenings are vital for early detection. As the cancer grows, men may experience a variety of symptoms. Unfortunately, these symptoms are present in a variety of conditions that are common in men of the same age. The screening process for prostate cancer is simple and should always be considered when symptoms are present. These are some of the most reported symptoms in men with prostate cancer.

  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hip and back pain
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs

Prostate Cancer Screening

There are two tests available to screen for prostate cancer. These tests aren't designed to provide an absolute diagnosis of prostate cancer. Instead, they detect certain factors that make a cancer diagnosis more likely. If your screening results aren't normal, you'll have to undergo more testing for a final diagnosis.

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test

PSA is a protein made by cells in the prostate gland. Only small amounts of this protein are found in the blood. The PSA blood test measures PSA in units called nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). As PSA measures rise, so do the risks of prostate cancer. There is no exact PSA number to detect prostate cancer, but doctors typically follow these guidelines.

  • Most men without prostate cancer have a PSA level below 4 ng/mL
  • Men with a PSA level between 4 and 10 ng/mL have a 1 in 4 chance of having prostate cancer
  • For men with a PSA level higher than 10 ng/mL, the likelihood of having prostate cancer is over 50%  

Digital Rectal Exam (DRE)

A DRE does not require a blood test, and may be performed after the PSA blood test is complete. Instead, a physician inserts a gloved, lubricated, finger into the rectum to feel for bumps or hard areas on the prostate that might indicate cancer. While the exam may be uncomfortable, it is usually painless and only takes a short time.

Prostate Cancer Treatment

If a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer after screening, treatment options need to be explored immediately. Early detection and treatment is the best defense against any kind of cancer. There are three types of specialists that may provide prostate cancer treatment.

  • Urologist
  • Medical Oncologist
  • Radiation Oncologist

Often, these three physicians will work together to form a treatment plan based on your specific situation. At Arizona Oncology, our specialists work together to provide the most detailed, up-to-date studies and treatments for men diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer

There are a variety of treatment options for prostate cancer, and your oncology team may recommend a combination of methods depending on your personal needs. These are the most common treatments for prostate cancer.

  • Active Surveillance
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy, including seed implants
  • Hormone Therapy
  • Chemotherapy 

If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your treatment team will provide a wealth of support and information while you make decisions regarding treatment. Oncologists at Arizona Oncology strive to provide a community for prostate cancer patients and their loved ones with support groups and options for treatment. While prostate cancer symptoms can signal many different health conditions, it's vital to be aware of your risks and know the signs of prostate cancer. Early detection and treatment is the best defense against prostate cancer, and learning your options provides you with the knowledge you need to protect your health. 

Originally created March 2017. Updated July 2020.

Arizona Oncology - The US Oncology Network