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Men’s Health Month: Understanding Prostate Cancer 

Courtesy Dr. Arpan Prabhu, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at IU Health West

June is National Men’s Health Month, a time to encourage men to be proactive when it comes to their health.

Prostate cancer is a significant health concern for men that affects the prostate gland, a part of the male reproductive system. Being educated about this condition is vital for early detection and effective management.

What is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer develops when cells in the prostate gland mutate and grow uncontrollably. It is one of the most common cancers in men but often progresses slowly, with many cases remaining asymptomatic for years.

What are the risk factors?

Several factors contribute to the risk of developing prostate cancer. Risk increases with age, particularly after 50. Most cases are diagnosed in men over 65. A family history of prostate cancer or certain genetic mutations can elevate the risk. Poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, and smoking may contribute to an increased risk.

What are the signs and symptoms?

In its early stages, prostate cancer often presents with no symptoms. However, as the cancer progresses, men might experience:

  • Urinary changes: This includes difficulty starting or stopping urination, weak or interrupted flow, frequent urination or blood in the urine.
  • Erectile dysfunction: Prostate cancer can cause difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.
  • Discomfort or pain: Pain in the back, hips or pelvis can indicate advanced stages.
  • How is prostate cancer diagnosed and treated?

Early detection significantly improves outcomes. Screening for prostate cancer usually includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, a blood test that measures a marker specific to the prostate. An elevated PSA can be caused by cancer or non-cancerous changes, and further testing is needed for a conclusive diagnosis. It is important to talk with your primary care doctor about the pros and cons of screening for prostate cancer with a PSA test.

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the stage, aggressiveness, and individual health factors. Options include:

  • Active surveillance: For early-stage disease, this includes closely monitoring for changes in the cancer without immediate treatment.
  • Radiation therapy: This is a non-invasive, painless treatment that uses pinpointed high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery: Removal of the prostate gland may be recommended for localized cancer.
  • Hormone therapy: Injections or pills can be used to lower testosterone levels and slow cancer growth.

Can you reduce your risk?

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking, may reduce the risk. Discussing screening options with your physician, especially for those at higher risk, is essential.


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