As the chief medical officer in your home, you make most of the health care decisions in the house. Since it is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, you may want to talk to the men in your life (dad, husband, etc.) and get them to have that crucial conversation with their doctor about prostate exams.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about prostate cancer.
At what age should a man start thinking about getting his prostate checked?
If there is a family history of an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, then discussing this with your primary care in your late forties would be appropriate. For patients at lower risk for prostate issues, a discussion can occur in your early fifties.
Who is at risk for prostate cancer?
- African-American men are at higher risk for prostate cancer and should discuss prostate screening with their primary care doctors in their late forties.
- Men who have a family history of prostate cancer, such as a father or brother.
- Men who are overweight have a greater risk of more aggressive prostate cancer but not necessarily a higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
What are some of the prostate health symptoms to look for?
Symptoms for prostate health involve urination:
- Blood in the urine
- Weakness of urinary stream
- Getting up more than two times at night to urinate
- Strong urges to urinate
- Pain in the penis while urinating or just afterward
- Difficulty starting urination
If you notice any of these, talk to your doctor. One of the troubles we have is that prostate cancer does not cause these symptoms unless it is very advanced. This is the reason why we urge patients to talk to their primary care doctors about having a PSA test periodically and getting a rectal exam with their physicals.
Should all men be screened for prostate cancer?
Every man should talk to their doctor about being screened for prostate cancer by their early fifties.
For men at higher risk
For African-American men and those with a father or brother with prostate cancer, screening is strongly recommended. In those cases, prostate checks starting in the late forties and running through to about seventies every year, or every few years would be appropriate.
For everyone else
Others may want a PSA test to have peace of mind. In that case it may be appropriate to check the PSA starting in the fifties and stop testing (if the PSA remains very low – below 1.0) at age 60.
In all cases having the prostate checked occasionally during the physical exam is a wise idea. Any changes related to prostate enlargement can be assessed, as well as looking for changes associated with prostate cancer.
What is the screening test for prostate cancer?
When people talk about the screening test for prostate cancer they are talking about getting a simple blood test. The blood test measures a protein called prostate specific antigen or PSA. PSA is made by the prostate and is normally found in high quantities in the ejaculate. PSA is released in the blood naturally and the level increases gradually once your turn 50. The PSA level can be elevated for a number of reasons, such as having an enlarged prostate, a urinary tract infection or an infection of the prostate.
I have an appointment scheduled with my doctor, what questions should I ask?
A handy list of questions is available online to print out.
Follow the link below to a video by one of our other urologists Dr. Jennifer Yates discussing current recommendations regarding the prostate blood test and who might benefit from the test.