It’s very important to know how early detection and treatment for prostate cancer can be the difference between life and death among men diagnosed with that illness.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men after nonmelanoma skin cancer. This year, prostate cancer is expected to claim the lives of about 34,700 men in the United States, according to cancer.net. In 2023, it’s estimated that approximately 288,300 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
One simple step men can take to detect prostate cancer in its early stages, when it’s most treatable, is through an annual PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, said Dr. Reza Goharderakhshan, chief of urologic surgery at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center.
While the general guidelines recommend PSA tests starting at age 55, men may need PSA screening between the ages of 40 and 54 if they have at least one first-degree relative (such as a father or brother) who has had prostate cancer. The same goes if they have at least two extended family members who have had prostate cancer.
“A PSA blood test is simple and noninvasive and can be the difference between life and death as far as prostate cancer is concerned,” Dr. Goharderakhshan said. “This type of test is critically important, especially for men with a family history of prostate cancer, and for Black men, whose mortality rate from prostate cancer is twice that of men of other races.”
Men with prostate cancer typically do not exhibit any symptoms until in its later, more advanced stages of the disease, Dr. Goharderakhshan said. Those symptoms include back pain, swelling of the legs, weight loss and difficulty urinating.
“That’s why early detection by having a PSA blood test is so critical,” he explained.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, out of every 100 American men, about 13 will get prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about 2 to 3 men will die from prostate cancer. The most common risk factor is age. The older a man is, the greater the chance of getting prostate cancer. However, if detected early — and with proper treatment — most men can survive prostate cancer.
Dr. Goharderakhshan noted the following factors can elevate the risk of prostate cancer among men:
1) Presence of close male members of the family who had prostate cancer.
2) Inherited genetic mutations, such as BRCA1/BRCA2 genes and Lynch syndrome.
3) A diet high in red meats, processed foods, high-fat dairy and low in fruits and vegetables.
4) Obesity in some studies has been linked to more aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
Dr. Goharderakhshan noted African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry are also more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. He added the risk of prostate cancer rises among men after age 50.
“As you get older, it becomes more critically important for men to get screened for prostate cancer, regardless of any symptoms,” Dr. Goharderakhshan said. “The good news is that prostate cancer is highly treatable when detected early, with an excellent chance of cure. That’s why I encourage men to not delay discussing with their doctor if a PSA blood test is needed to protect their health.”