Think about nine men in your life—your father, brother, uncle, golfing buddies. Chances are, one of them will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
An estimated 164,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and 29,000 men will die from the disease. While prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men after lung cancer, most men with the disease do not die from it.
That’s because prostate cancer is 100 percent survivable if it’s caught early. The problem, however, is that the disease is often symptomless in its early stages and is therefore hard to detect. If prostate cancer has progressed, survival rates decrease dramatically. That’s why screening is critical.
Screening and risk factors
Experts recommend that doctors start screening patients for prostate cancer at age 50 or earlier if they fall into higher risk categories for the disease.
These higher risk factors include being African American, having a family history, and having an elevated prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. If you are over 50 or any of these risk factors apply to you, talk to your doctor about screening at your next appointment.
The most common prostate cancer screening method is a test that measures the blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by prostate tissue.
While a high level of PSA in the bloodstream may be a warning sign for prostate cancer, there are other non-cancerous reasons your PSA level might increase, such as enlargement or inflammation of the prostate.[i]
The PSA test
Michael K. Brawer, M.D., who currently serves as Chief Medical Officer for MDxHealth, is a respected urologist and a key developer of the PSA test.
While he believes that the PSA test remains an incredibly useful tool, Dr. Brawer cautions that it is not a definitive test to determine if a man has prostate cancer.
“PSA is helpful, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story,” said Dr. Brawer. “Luckily, advances in personalized medicine can give your urologist a more complete picture of what’s going on, even before performing a biopsy.”
Other tests available for men
Today, there are a diverse number of biomarker tests that can help your doctor make clinical decisions. One of these biomarkers, called SelectMDx, is a urine-based test that your doctor can order before doing a prostate biopsy to determine the likelihood that a biopsy will find cancer.
If the test indicates that biomarkers for cancer are not present, a doctor may not have to perform a biopsy, which is painful, invasive, and can have a high risk of complication.
However, if the test indicates that cancer is present, a doctor will perform a biopsy—biopsies are currently the only way to definitively diagnose prostate cancer.
When prostate cancer is diagnosed, your doctor may choose one of three treatment options: active surveillance, radiation, or surgery.
Options after diagnosis
“For very mild cancers, a urologist may choose to follow it closely without treatment, which is called active surveillance. In these scenarios, the symptoms of the cancer will actually be less harmful than the side effects of the treatment,” explained Dr. Brawer.
“Doctors will closely follow and screen men in active surveillance so that they can begin treatment if and when the cancer progresses.”
After being treated for prostate cancer, most men will go into remission and live full lives. According to the American Cancer Society, the 15-year survival rate of all stages of prostate cancer is 96 percent.
“Prostate cancer isn’t a death sentence,” said Dr. Brawer, “But your outcomes will be much better if you get screened and catch the disease early.”
So what can men do?
- Reduce your risk. You can try to reduce your risk for cancer through lifestyle changes. New research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that men who engaged in vigorous exercise over 26 years had the lowest risk for developing aggressive or lethal prostate cancer.[iv] According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a low-fat diet high in fruits and veggies is also associated with lower risk.[v]
- Understand the symptoms. Unfortunately, the early stage of prostate cancer often has no symptoms, which is why it is important to get an annual prostate exam. Once it has progressed, symptoms might include:
- Frequent, painful or bloody urination
- Difficulty controlling bladder
- Erectile dysfunction
- Decrease in semen during ejaculation
- Painful or bloody ejaculation
- Pain or stiffness in the hips, pelvis, thighs or lower back[vi]
- Get screened. If you are at high risk for prostate cancer—if you are over the age of 50, African American, have an elevated PSA, or have a family history of the disease—talk to your doctor about screening.
Spend more time on the green. Get screened for prostate cancer today.
MDxHealth is a multinational healthcare company that provides actionable epigenetic information to personalize the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The increased adoption of our ConfirmMDx® for Prostate Cancer testing solution within the U.S. urology community has established MDxHealth as a market leader in the important and growing field of cancer epigenetics.
Learn more about available, personalized diagnosis of prostrate cancer and treatment at https://mdxhealth.com/
[i] PSA Test National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/psa-fact-sheet
[ii] MDxHealth Annual Report 2017. https://mdxhealth.com/sites/default/files/financial-reports/en/2017_AR_EN_Final_POSTPublication.pdf
[iii] Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/in-depth/prostate-cancer/art-20048087
[iv] Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/prostate-cancer-risk-reduced-exercise/
[v] Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prostate-cancer/in-depth/prostate-cancer-prevention/art-20045641
[vi] Prostate Cancer Foundation. https://www.pcf.org/about-prostate-cancer/what-is-prostate-cancer/prostate-cancer-symptoms-signs/