Living Well: Know the signs of prostate cancer

In honor of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, it’s a good idea as a man to know the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, and to understand your risk. As you probably know, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, and is the second leading cause of death from all cancers in the United States. In fact, half of all men in their 80s have prostate cancer.

While this may sound alarming, the good news is that prostate cancer is usually slow growing and if caught early on, can be treated and stopped. Prostate cancer is regarded as one of the most curable cancers when caught early.

Signs of prostate cancer

The best way to catch prostate cancer early is to know the signs. Luckily, signs are fairly obvious. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs include:

• Trouble urinating

• Decreased force in the stream of urine

• Blood in your urine or semen

• Pain in your lower back, hips or thighs

• Discomfort in the pelvic area

• Erectile dysfunction

• Elevated prostate-specific antigen test (PSA)

You may assume your urinary symptoms are a sign of a bladder infection or a kidney problem, but get it checked out. This can be especially true for younger men. While most cases of prostate cancer occur in men over the age of 50, if you have difficulty starting a urine stream, have weak flow or have to go frequently, especially at night, get it checked out. Trouble urinating might simply indicate that your prostate is enlarged. Having an enlarged prostate is not a sign of prostate cancer nor does it increase your risk of getting it.

Prostate screenings

The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends against PSA screenings for healthy men, stating that the potential harm outweighs the potential benefits. However, certain physician-led groups recommend PSA screenings on an individual basis, depending on health, family history and life expectancy. Ultimately, the decision to get a PSA screening is one made between you and your doctor. Memorial Regional Health offers a PSA screening test at its annual health fair in April.

During a prostate screening, the doctor will test your PSA level, which measures a protein produced by your prostate gland. The higher the number, the greater the chance you might have prostate cancer. You should know that not all elevated PSAs point to cancer — some are caused by infections. Then, a physical exam is completed. If you do have a high PSA, sit down and visit with your physician so you can make an informed decision on what to do next.

Preventing prostate cancer

Some risk factors for prostate cancer can’t be prevented, such as genetics and race. One in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at some time in their lives, and that number increases to one in three for African Americans.  If you have a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer — a dad or brother — your risk is doubled or tripled.

There are things you can do to prevent prostate cancer, and cancer in general.  Did you know that exercising three hours a week has been shown to greatly reduce your cancer risk overall? Eating well has similar results.

If you’d like to learn more about prostate cancer, download a free guide from the Prostate Cancer Foundation website at If you have questions about symptoms, see your doctor. Providers at Memorial Regional Health’s Medical Clinic are welcoming new patients. For an appointment, call 970-826-2400.

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