Prostate Cancer Awareness Month: Let’s Talk Risk Factors, Testing, and Support

September 24, 2021
A man hugs his wife outdoors in a tree-lined yard

Stock photo posed by models.

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men. Despite its prevalence, though, some men still find it a difficult topic to discuss with their health care providers and even with family and friends. Nonetheless, it’s an important conversation to have. For Major League Baseball legend Ken Griffey Sr., prostate cancer was something his mother frequently discussed with her children. She lost 4 brothers to prostate cancer. “That was the biggest start to me being more aware of it, and she made us aware of it because she would talk about it all the time,” Griffey said in a 2017 radio show interview with our former Executive Chair Kim Thiboldeaux.

So, when Griffey was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006, he was already armed with some knowledge about the disease. After receiving his diagnosis, he considered the different treatment options available before choosing to have robotic surgery. “My prognosis was I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy,” Griffey said. “They knew they had gotten all of it. The biggest thing was the fact that they had gotten it early.”

Griffey himself has spoken out about prostate cancer and the importance of men talking with their doctors about symptoms they may be experiencing. There’s no better time than now, during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, to share facts about the disease. Keep reading for key things to know.

 

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer affects the prostate, which is a walnut-sized organ located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer occurs when prostate cells begin to grow out of control and form a mass or tumor in the prostate gland.

An anatomy illustration shows the prostate gland located below the bladder

Men are at higher risk for the disease if they are over 65 or have a family history of prostate cancer. That means if your father, brother, or son had prostate cancer, you are at a higher risk. Prostate cancer is more common among Black men than white or Hispanic/Latino men. It’s least common among Asian American/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native men. Other risk factors may include prostate changes such as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN), an abnormal cell condition.

More than 233,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.

Signs & Symptoms of Prostate Cancer

Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. Advanced prostate cancer can cause symptoms such as:

  • Weak urine stream
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Discomfort or evidence of swollen lymph nodes in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness

If you experience any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away.

Testing for Prostate Cancer

If you have health concerns that could be a sign of prostate cancer, your doctor will ask you to have some tests done. These may include one or more of the following:

  • Rectal exam to look for unusual lumps or growth
  • Blood test (prostate-specific antigen test) to check for normal levels of antigens produced by the prostate
  • Ultrasound to detect abnormal growth with sound wave technology
  • Biopsy to remove and examine a small piece of prostate tissue for cancer
  • Imaging test to determine if the cancer has spread

If the test results indicate that prostate cancer is present, there are many treatment options to discuss with your doctor. Your doctor will help you decide which treatment would be best for you based upon the cancer stage, the grade of the tumor, your age, and other personal factors.

Get more details about prostate cancer stages, grades, and scores.

For men aged 55 to 69 years, the decision to undergo periodic prostate-specific antigen-based screening for prostate cancer should be an individual one.

— U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Prostate Cancer Resources & Support

Our recent research reveals the impact prostate cancer can have on men’s quality of life and distress. For example, 37% of prostate cancer participants who joined our Cancer Experience Registry were at risk for clinically significant levels of anxiety. Additionally, 73% of participants experienced erectile dysfunction since diagnosis or treatment, and 34% felt they were not given enough information about erectile dysfunction prior to treatment.

If you are living with prostate cancer or are a caregiver to someone with prostate cancer, these resources can help ease the burden of your journey:

“Putting updates in MyLifeLine was like sharing my personal journal with family and friends. Reading [their] comments was humbling and uplifting.”

— Rick, prostate cancer survivor