Mark Plante, MD, is division chief of Urology at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Mark Plante, MD, is division chief of Urology at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Prostate cancer is number one, after skin cancer, for cancer incidence in men and is the number two cause of cancer death in males.

What’s the prostate? The prostate is a small gland, about the size of a walnut that sits just below the bladder. Over time it can enlarge, and, the risk of abnormal cell growth can increase. When abnormal cells multiply, prostate cancer can develop.

There is good news though—cancer deaths associated with prostate cancer have dropped more than 40 percent over the last 25 years, with a better understanding of and new treatments for advanced disease. Overall, with all stages combined, the 5-year survival rate for patients with prostate cancer is over 90 percent.

Here are some quick and simple facts you should know about prostate cancer regarding prevention, detection, and treatment.

Prevention

  • A heart healthy diet is a prostate-healthy diet.
  • New research shows staying active may help keep us cancer-free.
  • Know your risk. Age, family history, and being of African American origin are all risk factors for prostate cancer. Talk to your primary care doctor about understanding your risk of and screening options for prostate cancer that may be right for you.

Detection

  • Again, know your risk as early detection may be key to effectively treating prostate cancer, especially in the most aggressive forms of the disease. When caught late, the relative survival rate for prostate cancer declines to less than 30 percent.
  • If you have trouble urinating, have blood in your semen, pain in your pelvic area or new bone pain, or have trouble getting and/or maintaining an erection, talk to your doctor. These may be signs of prostate problems as well as other important medical conditions.
  • The more widely used standard for screening today is if you are age 40 with a high risk for prostate cancer you should consider being screened yearly. Otherwise, yearly screening commences at age 50+.
  • Screening includes the use of:
    • Digital rectal exam
    • Serum PSA Testing (repeat tests should be done to confirm an abnormal level as a high PSA does not always mean cancer either)

Treatment

  • First, not every man with prostate cancer needs to be treated. Research has shown that, in many cases, watching and waiting may be the best course of action.
  • We have more and better treatments for advanced prostate cancer today than we did years ago.
  • Here at the UVM Cancer Center, we have ongoing research looking at developing new targets to better therapies for prostate cancer, and also research looking to better determine a patient’s true risk category to help better determine their need or not for treatment. The next 10-20 years will provide even more significant advances.
  • Depending on the specific situation, the treatment for prostate cancer may include surgery, radiation, hormone, and chemotherapy depending on a patient’s specific stages/types of the disease.

Mark Plante, MD, FRCS(C), FACS S serves as UVMMC’s Chief of Urology and is a UVM Cancer Center Member.

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