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September 23, 2021

7 Things You Didn't Know About Prostate Cancer

7 Things You Didn't Know About Prostate Cancer

About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes making it the most common type of cancer in males. Fortunately, it tends to be a slow-growing cancer for most men with a high survival rate and treatment options that can often avoid the need for surgery. Even though it’s very common, there may be some things about prostate cancer that surprise you!

Check out these seven facts that can help you understand more about detection, diagnosis, and treatment of prostate cancer.

1. Prostate Cancer Treatment Is Often Not Started Right Away

Sometimes, the growth of prostate cancer is so slow that patients may not need any treatment until the cancer starts growing. And for some men, it’s something that’s monitored, but not treated, for years. The process of monitoring the patient is called active surveillance.

Active surveillance includes periodic visits to the doctor to track whether there are signs of cancer growth. It involves routine tests such as digital rectal exams, blood tests, and imaging tests. If there is any indication of tumor changes or growth, another prostate biopsy may be needed to see if the grade has increased.

2. PSA Numbers Are Not a Good Indicator of a Prostate Cancer Diagnosis

The American Cancer Society recommends PSA screening for men above 50 years, with average risk and over ten years of life expectancy. Men between 40 and 50 years should be screened only if they have a higher risk of cancer. Risk factors include a close relative, sibling, or father affected by prostate cancer, race, etc.

Previously, doctors would recommend a prostate biopsy for all patients with PSA levels of 4.0 ng/mL or above. Recent studies have shown that multiple factors can cause PSA level increases. Some of them are:

  • Prostate issues such as prostatitis, urinary tract infection, prostate surgery, or biopsy

  • Drugs used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP)

  • Age

  • Race

Because of this, an elevated PSA score isn’t an immediate cue for a prostate biopsy. Rather, the approach today is to monitor the PSA levels to see if they continue to increase over the course of several months. If they do, or if there are any symptoms of prostate cancer, a biopsy would likely be recommended.

3. There are New Tests Available to Identify Prostate Cancer

Oncologists have agreed that the PSA tests are not the perfect way to detect prostate cancer in the earlier stages. To address the issue, researchers have come up with new tests, including:

  • Prostate Health Index (PHI) - A score that utilizes three different measurements from the PSA test to determine the likelihood of prostate cancer being clinically significant.

  • Confirm MDx - A urinalysis used for men who have had a previous negative biopsy. This can help assess the need for another biopsy or to help confirm a negative finding at a later date.

  • 4K Score Test - a blood test used to follow up after an elevated PSA blood test to assess the likelihood of aggressive prostate cancer being present. It uses four prostate-specific biomarkers and your clinical information.

  • Progensa Test - A urine test that is used with other clinical information to determine the need for a repeat biopsy.

  • EPI (ExoDx Prostate IntelliScore) - This test utilizes a urine sample to determine the probabilities of aggressive prostate cancer.

While the tests are not a replacement for PSA tests, doctors can use these tests as a part of your overall assessment. Instead of requiring invasive biopsies when a PSA test comes back with higher than normal numbers, these tests allow your medical team to understand more about your current condition through the use of urine or blood samples.

4. Prostate Cancer Symptoms Are Not Unique

Earlier stages of prostate cancer usually don’t show any symptoms, but as the tumor grows, men may experience one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty urinating

  • Pelvic discomfort

  • Frequent urination

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Blood in urine or semen

  • Loss of bladder control

  • Painful ejaculation

  • The interrupted flow of urine

  • Numbness in legs and feet

However, these are also the symptoms of non-cancerous prostate conditions including prostatitis, BHP, enlarged prostate, etc. It’s important to have these symptoms checked out by a urologist who can identify the condition causing the discomfort.

If you’re at high risk for developing prostate cancer and experiencing these symptoms, your doctor may recommend a prostate biopsy if your PSA test comes back with a high number to determine if there are cancer cells present. However, younger men at a lower-risk for prostate cancer are more likely to be monitored to see if the symptoms clear up after being given treatment for the non-cancerous condition.

5. There May Be a Link Between Prostate Cancer and Diet

Several ongoing studies aim to establish significant links between food habits and prostate cancer. While we need more research to support the role of a healthy diet in prostate cancer control, many recent studies suggest that certain foods and nutrients are more likely to play a role in developing prostate cancer. Some of the research conducted so far shows:

  • Eating foods rich that are high in saturated fat, consuming too much calcium, and eating well-cooked meats may be associated with a higher risk of advanced prostate cancer.

  • Lycopene (a nutrient common in tomatoes) protects against prostate cancer through lowered lipid oxidation, control of cancer cell growth, and its antioxidant properties that help cells remain healthy.

  • Polyphenols present in green tea can play a vital role in protecting prostate cells from damage.

Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about the right dietary choices to help you reduce your risk for prostate cancer.

6. Young Men Can Be Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer has always been linked to old age with an average age of 68 years at diagnosis. In recent years, more cases of prostate cancer have been reported among men below the age of 55. This is called early-onset prostate cancer and accounts for about 10% of prostate cancer cases.

There is some indication of a genetic connection, but other factors such as obesity, HPV infection or other environmental influences are still being investigated. If you have a family member (father, brother, uncle) diagnosed with prostate cancer, talk to your doctor to see if you’re a candidate for genetic testing. A mutated BRCA 1 or BRCA2 gene, also related to breast and ovarian cancers in women, has been associated with developing prostate cancer at an earlier age. Learn more about genetic testing.

7. Tests to Predict Prostate Cancer Growth Are Available

It may be hard to predict how fast a cancer tumor can grow and spread to other parts of the body. Fortunately, some newer tests can be used along with PSA tests to determine the speed of growth and spread of prostate cancer. The tests are:

  • Genomic or proteomic tests

  • Prolaris Test

  • Oncotype DX Prostate

  • ProMark Test

Decipher is another test that is used to determine the risk of cancer relapse after surgery. Oncologists are looking for optimal ways to make use of these advanced tests.

While these tests don’t replace the confirmation of a biopsy and the Gleason score, they allow doctors an avenue to further explore an individual’s risk of developing prostate cancer without an invasive biopsy.

Visit Cancer Care Centers of Brevard for a Prostate Cancer Treatment Plan

If you have prostate cancer and would like to discuss prostate-preserving treatment options, request an appointment with our team. We care for patients at all stages of prostate cancer throughout the Space Coast area including all of Brevard County.

Categories: Prostate Cancer