Prostate Screening

Prostate Screening

man and woman sitting outsideCountless studies have shown that men are more reluctant than women to acknowledge potential health problems or visit a doctor for a checkup. Therefore, it may be no surprise that many men know little about the importance of prostate health.

A survey of men ages 45 and older by Prostate Cancer UK showed that 70 percent of participants knew nothing about their prostate or the symptoms of prostate cancer.

The Urology Care Foundation seeks to increase public awareness about the importance of prostate health, especially during national Prostate Health Awareness Month in September. The organization advocates for education about risk factors and symptoms of prostate-related diseases, which include prostate cancer, enlarged prostate, and prostatitis.

“Prostate problems, whether cancerous or benign, become more common as a man gets older. Not only can it be the source of cancer, but it can also impact a man’s quality of life,” said Glen Yang, MD, urologist with Carle Physician Group in Urbana. Dr. Yang sees patients at Paris Community Hospital/Family Hospital as a visiting specialist physician.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is located below the bladder and surrounds part of the urethra, which carries urine from the bladder. The prostate helps make semen, which carries sperm from the testicles and is crucial to a man’s sex life.

Health conditions related to the prostate include the following:

  • Prostate cancer is the second most common incidence of cancer in American men after skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Additionally, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men after lung cancer. The average age of prostate cancer diagnosis is 66.
    Prostate cancer may not cause symptoms in its early stages. More advanced prostate cancer may cause trouble urinating, blood in the urine, discomfort in the pelvic area, and erectile dysfunction. Treatments include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgery.
    The risk of having prostate cancer rises significantly after age 50. Additionally, prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and in men who have a family history of the disease.
  • The prostate gland tends to grow larger with age. An enlarged prostate, also called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), can block the flow of urine out of the bladder and can cause bladder, urinary tract, or kidney problems. BPH is not cancer and does not develop into cancer. Symptoms include a weak urine stream, difficulty starting urination, frequent or urgent need to urinate, and increased frequency of urination at night.
  • Prostatitis is an inflammation of the prostate gland, which can be caused by a bacterial infection. Prostatitis often causes painful or difficult urination, pain in the groin, abdomen, or lower back. Treatments include antibiotics or other medications.

The following tests are used to check a man’s prostate health:

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE)—A healthcare provider feels the prostate from the rectum, checking for things such as size, lumps, and firmness of the prostate.
  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test—This blood test measures the amount of a protein called PSA that is produced by prostate cells. Elevated levels may indicate cancer, an enlarged prostate, or prostatitis.

Whether to test healthy men with no prostate symptoms for prostate cancer is controversial. Some medical organizations recommend men consider prostate cancer screening in their 50s, or sooner for men who have risk factors. Other organizations advise against screening.

“The most important thing is for a man to have a discussion with his doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for him,” said Dr. Yang.