Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer death among men of all races. In 2015, the American Cancer Society estimated over 220,000 men with prostate cancer. But with the latest treatments for prostate cancer, it can be treated effectively and more than 2 million men in the U.S count themselves as prostate cancer survivors.
Signs & Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. But more advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms, such as:
– Problem with urinating – including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
– Blood in the urine
– Leaking of urine when laughing or coughing
– Erectile Dysfunction
– Pain in the hips, spine, chest or other areas from cancer spread to bones
– Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.
How is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of prostate cancer involves a combination of three tests.
– Physical Examination & History
An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. A history of the patient’s health habits and past illnesses and treatments will also be taken.
– Digital Rectal Examination
As part of a physical examination your doctor inserts a gloved and lubricated finger into your rectum and feels toward the front of your body. Findings on this exam are compared to notes about the patient’s prior digital rectal examinations.
– Transrectal Ultrasound
This is a procedure in which a probe that is about the size of a finger is inserted into the rectum to check the prostate. The probe is used to bounce high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
– Transrectal Magnetic Resonance Imaging
This is a procedure that uses a strong magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This helps the MRI machine make clearer pictures of the prostate and nearby tissue. It is done to find out if the cancer has spread outside the prostate into nearby tissues.
– Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
The PSA blood test measures the level of a protein found in the blood that is produced by the prostate gland. This can indicate an increased likelihood of prostate cancer if the PSA is at an increased or elevated level but it does not provide a definitive diagnosis. Prostate cancer can be found in patients with a low PSA level but this occurs less than 20% of the time.
– Prostate Biopsy
A biopsy refers to a procedure which involves taking of a sample from a tissue in the body. Prostate cancer is only definitively diagnosed by finding cancer cells on a biopsy sample taken from the prostate gland. A biopsy procedure is usually uncomplicated, with just some numbness, pain, or tenderness in the area for a short time afterwards.