Because the small prostate gland is tucked away under the bladder, many men may not even know what the prostate is or its purpose. The prostate produces seminal fluid and is an organ that is largely ignored in the younger years. But once a man reaches age 50, the prostate often makes its presence known. According to WebMD, most men over 50 have a growing prostate that can interfere with urination. It is also responsible for one of the most common forms of cancer in men, second only to skin cancer.
Age is the strongest risk factor for prostate cancer. Most cases of prostate cancer are in men over the age of 65 reports the National Cancer Institute. By age 60 to 69 about 70 percent of men have prostate cancer and that number jumps to 80 percent by age 80. Having close family members, especially a brother, diagnosed with prostate cancer and/or being of African-American descent increases the risk for developing prostate cancer. High fat diets and genetics are also believed to contribute to a higher rate of prostate cancer in some families.
Prostate cancer is often a quiet disease that has no symptoms. If there are symptoms, they are similar to having an enlarged prostate and are indistinguishable from a benign prostate condition. These symptoms can include difficulty urinating or with erections and pain in the hips, thighs, or lower back. Blood in the semen or urine can also be symptoms.
A physical exam done via the rectum, blood test, and ultrasound can determine if the prostate is of normal size and functioning normally. However, only a biopsy can definitively determine if a growth or other abnormality is cause by cancer.
Treatment and Prognosis
WebMD reports 1 in 35 do not survive prostate cancer. That means prostate cancer has a 97 to 98 percent survival rate. However, survival greatly depends on catching the disease in the early stages. Prostate cancer is considered a curable disease if it is in the early stages and has not metastasized. The treatment will depend on what stage the cancer is in. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, hormone medications, and radiation.
Some patients with early stage prostate cancer even choose to not treat the cancer, but instead only monitor it with regular doctor visits and tests. This is because this is a slow growing cancer. A 75-year-old man with early stage prostate cancer may be at a low risk for actually dying from prostate cancer and may therefore choose not to treat the disease. The decision to treat and how to treat needs to be made with the doctor and by taking into consideration all the facts about the patient’s cancer stage, age, other health issues, and overall risk of dying from prostate cancer.
WebMD: Prostate Conditions
WebMD: Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
National Cancer Institute: What You Need to Know about Prostate Cancer
Dr. Weil: Prostate Cancer