What you should know about Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Doctor Holds Blue Ribbon

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and with approximately one in eight men diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes, Brooklyn doctors stress the importance of awareness surrounding the remarkably common disease.

Fortunately, prostate cancer can typically be treated successfully, as long as the cancer is detected early. This is because most prostate cancers grow gradually and stay confined within the prostate gland. As a result, regular screening is of the utmost importance for the successful treatment of prostate cancer. 

Prostate cancer is also one of the few cancers that can be screened at an early stage. 

“We know that prostate cancer is one of the few screening detectable cancers, meaning, if people are routinely screened for prostate cancer, we can detect it at an earlier and more treatable stage,” said Dr. Meredith Metcalf, a urologic oncologist with NYU Langone Ambulatory Care in Bay Ridge and Brooklyn Heights. “So, having men and their families aware of that so that they can get the age-appropriate screening is really important.”

There are also a number of risk factors to be aware of that can make someone more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. As men grow older, their risk of prostate cancer increases. Prostate cancer mostly affects men past the age of 50. 

Black men have a higher chance of developing prostate cancer than other men and tend to develop prostate cancer earlier in their life. They are also twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than their counterparts. 

Finally, family history plays a role in one’s risk of developing prostate cancer. Your risk is higher if a blood relative has had prostate cancer, or if you have family members who have had breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer.

Still, if screened early, prostate cancer can often be successfully treated — even if you fall into a high-risk category. Furthermore, Metcalf said, if caught early, prostate cancer may not even need immediate treatment.

Dr. Meredith Metcalf, a urologic oncologist with NYU Langone Ambulatory Care in Bay Ridge and Brooklyn Heights.NYU Langone Health

“We know that PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) testing detects cancer at an earlier stage,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “Cancers at an earlier stage are more treatable and also more likely to be curable as opposed to later stage cancers. Many men don’t need any immediate treatment and just need monitoring or surveillance to make sure they don’t develop anything more aggressive in the future. Surgery is obviously a big part of treating prostate cancer, but so are radiation therapies. Some men may be a good candidate for focal therapies or cryoablation. So, rather than treating the whole gland, we just focus on where the actual tumor is. That’s one of the other benefits of early detection.”

Typically, prostate cancer will not cause any noticeable symptoms in men. But, if left to progress to the later stages, symptoms can arise including trouble urinating, decreased force in the stream of urine, blood in the urine, blood in the semen, bone pain, losing weight without trying and erectile dysfunction.

As for the prevention of prostate cancer, it comes down to making healthy lifestyle choices, such as following a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and getting plenty of exercise.

“We know that men who follow a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and may also reduce the risk of a more aggressive prostate cancer,” said Metcalf. “The same thing is true for maintaining a healthy weight. Men who are obese have a higher risk of prostate cancer, a higher risk of a more aggressive cancer, and a higher risk of their cancer coming back after treatment. So, maintaining a healthy weight with a healthy diet and regular physical activity is one of the most important things that can be done to reduce the chance of prostate cancer.”

For more information on prostate cancer and screening for prostate cancer, click here.