Talking about your prostate, urinary symptoms, or sexual dysfunction can be uncomfortable, but it’s essential for men’s health. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized reproductive organ located under a man’s bladder. It is responsible for making sperm and tends to get bigger with age.
Prostate cancer is another common form of prostate disease. It is the most common cancer in men in the United States after skin cancer and is often detected during a routine examination.
Myth 1: I have no symptoms, so my prostate must be fine.
Reality: Men with prostate cancer may experience symptoms differently. Some men experience painful ejaculation or difficulty urinating or urinating too often. Others have no symptoms. The bottom line is that you might have prostate problems and never know it. In general, consider having your prostate checked at age 55. African Americans and people with a family history of prostate cancer may need to be screened earlier, starting at age 45. Talk to your doctor about when and how often to have your prostate checked.
Myth 2: A high PSA level means I have prostate cancer.
Reality: Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate. When there is a problem with the prostate, more PSA can be released into the body. Although a high PSA level in your blood may indicate a problem with your prostate, it does not automatically mean that you have cancer. A larger or tender prostate, urinary tract infections, or vigorous exercise, such as riding a bicycle, can affect your PSA score. So don’t panic if your PSA level is high. Ask your doctor what could be the cause so you can take the appropriate steps to fix it. Although the PSA test is the most commonly used test for detecting prostate cancer, researchers are looking for new ways to detect cancer earlier and improve its treatment.
Myth 3: My PSA test was normal, so I don’t need a rectal exam.
Reality: Two types of tests look for possible signs of prostate cancer. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood and is the current standard for detecting prostate cancer. In some cases, however, cancer is found in men with normal PSA levels, so your doctor may also recommend a rectal examination (DRE). It is a simple procedure in which a doctor examines the rectum and prostate. If your doctor feels a lump, changes in firmness or size, or anything else unusual, more tests may be needed.
Talk to your doctor about which test might be right for you. If the test or tests show you might have cancer, your doctor will refer you to a urologist for a prostate biopsy.
Myth 4: Everyone is at the same risk of getting prostate cancer.
Reality: 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. A family history of prostate cancer is another significant risk factor.
“Men are twice as likely to get prostate cancer when a sibling or father has had the disease,” says Dr Guarnaccia. “The risk is much higher for men with multiple family members affected, especially if those relatives were diagnosed at a young age.”
African-American men are also at increased risk. They are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. They also tend to get cancer at a younger age, have more advanced disease when caught, and have a more serious type of prostate cancer than other men.
The goal of prostate cancer screening is to identify and treat prostate cancer before it causes symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a digital rectal exam and a PSA blood test to check your prostate. Men between the ages of 55 and 69 should discuss the pros and cons of each screening test with their provider. Make an appointment with your Dignity Health Medical Group doctor to review screening options and when or how often to have your prostate checked. Use our “Find a doctor” tool to find a Dignity Health doctor near you.