Living Well

Am I at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

Am I at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

What do you know about prostate cancer?
It is predicted during 2018, approximately 164,690 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is the most common cancer found in men excluding skin cancer. Almost two out of three of these men will be 65 years old or older.

Most prostate cancers found by screening are small, grow slowly, and are rarely fatal. However, some men may have an aggressive form of prostate cancer and will benefit from early treatment.

Back to the basics: 
Cancer occurs when cells in the body change and grow out of control. Cancer is made up of abnormal cells that grow even though the body doesn’t necessarily need them to function properly. When cancer cells originate in the prostate, part of the male reproductive system, it is called prostate cancer.

The prostate is located just below or inferior to the bladder, in front or anterior to the rectum and surrounds the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). It produces semen which is used for reproduction. It is about the size of a walnut.

The prostate usually enlarges as men age. This increase in size can cause the urethra to narrow and decrease urine flow. This condition, called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, and its symptoms are not associated with prostate cancer.

Do I need to worry about prostate cancer?
All men are at risk for prostate cancer. Only men have a prostate; therefore, only men get this form of cancer. Thirteen out of every 100 American men will get prostate cancer, and about two to three will die as a result of their disease.

The most common risk factor is age. As men age, their prostate cancer risk increases. Certain men have an increased risk for diagnosis and/or death from prostate cancer.  African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer have a higher risk of prostate cancer and may also have more aggressive forms of the disease.

African-american male physician talking to Caucasian male patient

African-American men:

  • Are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men.
  • Are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than Caucasian men.
  • Get prostate cancer at a younger age, tend to have a more advanced disease when it is found, and tend to have a more severe type of prostate cancer than other men.

Family history impacts your risk level.

  • Men with a father, son or brother who have prostate cancer are at higher risk.
  • Genetics may play a role in risk level. Men with three or more first-degree relatives (father, son or brother), or two close relatives on the same side of the family who has had prostate cancer may have inherited a type of prostate cancer caused by genetic changes.

What should I look for?
Early prostate cancer rarely produces symptoms, but some symptoms of prostate cancer are:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Trouble emptying the bladder completely
  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away
  • Painful ejaculation

The above symptoms are more commonly seen in men with Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, which is a benign condition.

male physician talking to male patient in front of ceiling to floor window

Should I be screened for prostate cancer?
The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find the disease that may be at high risk for metastasis or spreading and to find cancer prior to any advancement of the disease.  Screening usually involves a digital rectal exam and a blood test called PSA (prostatic specific antigen). PSA is a substance made by the prostate. The PSA level in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer or other conditions that affect the prostate. The higher the PSA level in the blood the more likely there is an issue in the prostate. However, PSA levels are impacted by many factors including age and race. The digital rectal exam can reveal cancer that may be so abnormal that it does not even produce PSA.

If your PSA test is abnormal, doctors may do more tests to rule out or diagnose prostate cancer. The tests could include a Transrectal Ultrasound Guided Prostate Biopsy and/or MRI.

Contact a WJMC urologist to see if you should undergo screening >>

About Dr. Wesley Bryan:

profile picture of Dr. Wesley BryanDr. Bryan practices adult urology and has a special interest in minimally invasive surgery including the treatment of urologic cancers, stone disease, BPH and female urology/incontinence. Dr. Bryan is Board Certified by the American Board of Urology.  He is a certified robotic surgeon and a member of the American Urologic Association.

Dr. Bryan earned his undergraduate degree, medical degree, and completed six years of residency training at Tulane University, including two years of general surgery. After completing his residency in 2002, he practiced for three years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He returned to the New Orleans area and has been in private practice.