Prostate Cancer Is Not A Death Sentence!

Is it possible to have prostate cancer without any signs or symptoms? There are tests that will lead to a correct diagnosis.

The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute recommend that men at age 50 have an annual digital rectal exam and a PSA blood test. There is some recent discussion, however, about the need for the PSA test.

A few years ago, a physician friend of mine, said: "Men do not die from prostate cancer." According to the American Cancer Society, it is estimated that about 29,720 men in the United States will die of this type of cancer in 2013. That is about 12.5 percent of those diagnosed (238,590).

I think my friend was referring to the fact that more than 2.5 million men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive. Survival rate statistics depend on whether the cancer has spread, how far it has spread, and to what organs it has spread.

What Causes Prostate Cancer?

While the exact cause may be unknown, it is safe to say that it is probably a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Researchers have identified inherited genes that may increase the risk. But, environmental factors such as diet, pollution, stress, and smoking may also increase the risk.

Prostate cancer is very difficult to cure. The good news is that it is most often treatable. The doctors that treat this type of cancer are urologists and radiation or medical oncologists.

Prostate cancer may not have any symptoms. That is why it is recommended that men have regular exams, both DRE (digital rectal exam) and the PSA blood test. If symptoms are present they vary greatly, from painful urination to blood in the urine. Even back pain, numbness in your legs, or unexplained weight loss could be a symptom.

Tests That Lead To A Prostate Biopsy!

Your doctor will determine if you are a candidate for a biopsy. He or she will recommend one or several tests that will confirm whether a biopsy is necessary.

By definition, a biopsy samples tissue removed from the prostate. A pathologist then performs a microscopic examination of the tissue. Without a biopsy it is impossible to confirm the presence of prostate cancer.

The biopsy will remove several cores of tissue about 1/2 inch in length and 1/16 inch in diameter. To do this a biopsy gun is inserted in the rectum or between the rectum and the scrotum. The gun shoots a needle into the prostate and removes the "needle biopsy" in a fraction of a second. This procedure can be performed in the doctor's office or in a hospital setting.

Don't anticipate that less than a dozen samples will be taken. Often, it is 18 or more as more biopsies will increase the likelihood of detecting a malignancy.

Good News or Bad News Diagnosis!

If you have prostate cancer, there will be all sorts of new terminology that you will learn such as: PSA, PSA doubling time, Gleason score, etc. Many questions will pop into your head. For example:

  • How long will I live?
  • Will I need surgery?
  • Why me?
  • What is the best treatment?
  • Do I need a second opinion?
  • Has it spread to lymph nodes or other organs?

These questions and many others are normal. Now is the time to relax and think this through. Educate yourself about the various treatment options. Most often with prostate cancer there is not the urgency that there is with so many other cancers. Prostate cancer grows slowly.

You may or may not have symptoms. It cannot be sexually transmitted and is not contagious.

If you have prostate cancer, you want the biopsy to find it. Often the biopsy process will not find an existing cancer. At a later date, the biopsy procedure will be repeated and repeated - until it is found.

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