BY LORENA SAENZ GONZALEZ
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to revisit what you know and don’t know about the disease.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, aside from skin cancer. Approximately 164,690 men will be diagnosed with the disease in 2018 and about 29,430 are expected to die from prostate cancer this year. In Texas alone, about 12,600 men will be diagnosed and 1,830 will die from the disease.
Recent changes in prostate cancer screening recommendations may have left you confused about what to do. The Prevent Cancer Foundation recommends men ages 50 to 69 at average risk talk to their healthcare professionals about the pros and cons of prostate specific antigen — or PSA — testing before deciding whether or not to be tested. Go into the doctor’s office with some knowledge of prostate cancer to help you make an informed choice.
In the early stages of prostate cancer, you are unlikely to experience symptoms. As it progresses, you may have weak or interrupted urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping the urine flow, frequent urination, blood in the urine or a burning sensation during urination. You might also experience painful or difficult erections or pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.
African-American men are at greater risk of prostate cancer than white men, and more than twice as likely to die of the disease. Other risk factors are older age, family history of the disease, and inherited conditions, such as Lynch syndrome or BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.
PSA testing is the best screening method, but it’s far from perfect. Higher PSA levels can indicate prostate cancer, but it could also indicate other issues, such as an enlarged prostate (BPH).
Testing can detect cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely. But it can also result in false positives, leading to unnecessary concern, biopsies or treatment. Some men may be treated for prostate cancer that would never cause them harm, and have to live with the side effects and complications of treatment. Testing isn’t recommended for men ages 70 and older.
You may be able to reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and exercising regularly. If you smoke, quit. To learn more, visit www.preventcancer.org.
Lorena Saenz Gonzalez is the spouse of U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen. She is a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.