About 13% of American men will get prostate cancer, and 2% to 3% will die from it.
Be Aware of the Risk Factors
- You are more likely to get prostate cancer after age 40.
- If your father, son or brother had prostate cancer, you are at increased risk.
- If you are African-American, you have a higher likelihood of getting prostate cancer, and there’s more chance of dying from it. You also may get prostate cancer at a younger age and may have a more severe type of the cancer than other men get.
Be Aware of the Symptoms
Here are some common symptoms – but you may have different symptoms, or none at all.
- Difficulty starting to urinate
- A weak or interrupted urine flow
- Needing to urinate often, especially at night
- Finding it difficult to completely empty your bladder
- Feeling pain or burning when urinating
- Blood in your urine or semen
- Pain in your back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away
- Painful ejaculation
If you have any of the risk factors or experience any of these symptoms – or other symptoms that are worrying you – see your doctor as soon as possible.
Be Aware of the Pros and Cons of Screening
If you have no symptoms, routine screening for prostate cancer is something to discuss with your doctor.
The purpose of screening is to find a cancer that could spread if not treated, and it’s important to be informed so you can decide whether you want to go through with screening. You need to take into your account your level of risk and whether any benefits could be outweighed by the possible harm from the screening – and from any testing and treatment that could follow.
Most prostate cancers don’t grow at all or if they do grow, they grow slowly.
Pros of screening:
- Finding a cancer that is likely to spread so you can get treatment.
- Early detection of a potentially deadly cancer.
- Peace of mind if prostate cancer can be ruled out.
Cons of screening:
- The prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test can give false positive results, causing you worry and leading to further (possibly unnecessary) testing, such as a biopsy. And even if a tumor is found, this might be an “overdiagnosis”: a case where the person wouldn’t have died from prostate cancer, and so treatment might not only have been unnecessary (considered “overtreatment”) but might result in unpleasant side effects.
- If screening leads to a biopsy of your prostate, this could be painful and lead to blood in your semen or an infection.
- If screening leads to unnecessary treatment, you may suffer some of the common side effects of radiation or the surgery to remove your prostate, which include loss of bladder control, erectile dysfunction and problems with your bowel.
The recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is that if you are in the age bracket of 55 to 69, make the decision about getting periodic PSA-based screening after consultation with your doctor. If you are over age 70, USPSTF does not recommend getting routine PSA-based screening. Get more details about USPSTF’s prostate cancer screening recommendation.
Learn more about the PSA test.
For more information on various health and wellness topics, browse the QuickSeries® library of guides, including Men’s Health.