It’s that time of year again, it’s Movember. For those just tuning in, Movember has officially replaced November, and we’re here to explain why. Movember strives to bring awareness towards men’s health issues, such as testicular cancer, prostate cancer, and overall mental health, all life-threatening health issues that are often left out of the conversation. This month, men worldwide celebrate the importance of men’s health by growing out mustaches, hence, “Movember.”
Although September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we’re here to break down the basics of this cancer and the importance of getting regular screenings.
Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?
All men are at risk when it comes to prostate cancer; it’s as simple as that. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. However, those with genetic risk factors, such as a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer, could face a higher risk of being diagnosed.
Statistics from the Prostate Cancer Foundation show that about 1 in 456 men under 50 are diagnosed, but that number skyrockets to 1 in 54 for ages 50 to 59. Statistics show that 1 in 19 men ages 60 to 69 are diagnosed, and 1 in 11 men 70 and older are diagnosed. The disease is most commonly found in men who are 65 and older and is widely found in African-American Men.
Although prostate cancer is more likely found in older gentlemen, some suggest starting the process as early as age 40 if you have a genetic history of prostate cancer; if not, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force made the following recommendation. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most men do not have symptoms pertaining to this cancer.
However, a few common symptoms found in diagnosed patients are the following:
-Difficulty to urinate or frequently urinating
-Pain/burning sensation during urination
-Blood in urine or semen
*These are not the only symptoms
Back to the screening. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the appropriate test for this cancer is a PSA (prostate-specific antigen test), which looks at the levels of prostate-specific antigens in the blood. Additionally, there is a digital rectal exam (DRE) where the doctors use a lubricated finger to feel the prostate gland for any abnormalities.
After a man has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s time for the next steps. Physicians will use the Gleason score and cancer staging to calculate how aggressive the cancer is and what the best course of action is moving forward. The Gleason score gives healthcare providers an understanding of how irregular your cancer cells are, while cancer staging lets doctors know how aggressive the cancer is in a man’s body.
It is possible to catch the cancer early on with those regular screenings! At this point, men are advised to see both a urologist and a radiation oncologist to start reviewing possible treatments.
Depending on the stage the patient has been diagnosed at, different treatments are available per the CDC recommendations.
Meaning if the cancer was found early on and not likely to grow, your doctor could suggest actively monitoring through regular PSA tests and biopsies OR only treating symptoms as they occur.
Depending on what stage the cancer is found, one possible treatment route is a prostatectomy, where doctors remove the prostate. In some cases, the prostate and the seminal vesicles are removed. The prostate is not vital for survival but plays a crucial role in reproduction, as it supplies part of the man’s seminal fluid, which then mixes with sperm from the tests.
Patients could either try external beam radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy, otherwise known as brachytherapy.
According to the CDC, there are other alternative therapies that patients can be recommended by their physicians. It is vital to discuss with your physician what route is correct for you.
Take a look at Lorenzo’s Prostate Cancer story here and his journey in discussing with his doctors the best course of medical treatment.
Common Side Effects
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are multiple side effects, with these being the most common:
Infertility: As a result of cancer treatments, men’s ability to produce or ejaculate sperm can be hindered. For men who are looking to have children, it is sometimes suggested to preserve sperm before beginning treatment.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Radiation, surgery, and other treatments can potentially harm the erectile nerves in a man’s penis, making it difficult to get or sustain an erection. However, it is routine for a man to regain erectile function within the first two years.
Urine Leakage: Men may leak urine or feel an urgent need to pee at sudden and unexpected times, but within the first year, it is expected to improve.
Prostate Cancer Survival Rates: As of now, prostate cancer is the second highest-diagnosed type of cancer for men, but it has an incredibly high survival rate if caught early.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests 99% of men live at least five years after the diagnosis if cancer hasn’t spread. However, those with metastatic prostate cancer have a 32% chance of survival five years after the diagnosis.
All in all, the survival rates for prostate cancer are high, but make sure to ask your physician the hard questions and get those regular screenings!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Prostate Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://blogs.cdc.gov/cancer/category/prostate-cancer/
Prostate cancer: Symptoms, causes & treatment. (2023) Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8634-prostate-cancer
Prostate cancer treatment: Surgery, radiation, & chemotherapy. Prostate Cancer Treatment | Surgery, Radiation, & Chemotherapy | American Cancer Society. (n.d.). https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/prostate-cancer/treating.html
What is prostate cancer? Prostate Cancer Foundation. (2021, July 21). https://www.pcf.org/about-prostate-cancer/what-is-prostate-cancer/