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Prostate Cancer

It’s normal for the prostate to grow larger as a man ages.

Understanding prostate cancer

The prostate gland is about the size and shape of a walnut. It sits right below the bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra – the tube that carries urine out of the bladder.

As a man ages, it’s common for the prostate to grow larger. This is caused by cell growth which can happen in different ways:

  • Non-cancerous (benign) cell growth: This is normal, but can cause complications from a condition known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). BPH might make it harder for you to urinate, but BPH is not cancer and does not develop into cancer.
  • Atypical cell growth: Some cells don’t look normal and they might even form tumors, but are not cancerous. This type of cell growth should be watched by your doctor because it could indicate that cancer is present or likely to develop.
  • Cancerous (malignant) cell growth: Abnormal cells form tumors -- lumps of cells that grow out of control. Some tumors can be felt during a physical exam and others cannot.
  • Spread of cancer: Although cancerous cell growth in the prostate can start slowly, as it advances, it picks up speed and can then spread very quickly to other parts of the body

The fear of prostate cancer keeps many men from finding out if they’re at risk. Early detection is critical in successfully treating prostate cancer. If you have urinary pain, discomfort, or a change in the frequency of urination, it’s important to see your urologist immediately.

Don’t take a chance with your health. Know the facts about prostate cancer.

Did you know?

  • In the U.S., prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among men. As many as one in six will be diagnosed at some point in their lives.
  • Prostate cancer typically occurs in men over the age of 50, but 75% of all cases occur in men over the age of 65. John Muir Health recommends that you have your first screening at age 40 if you are at higher risk.  
  • Prostate cancer may not have any symptoms and a tumor can’t always be felt in a routine physical exam. Regular screenings are recommended, especially for men at higher risk.
  • According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), screening now detects nearly 86% of all prostate cancers while still in the early stages.
  • The five-year survival rate for men diagnosed and treated before the cancer spreads beyond the prostate has increased; the five-year survival rate for all stages of prostate cancer is 97%.

The PSA test is a simple blood test that can help detect or rule out prostate cancer.

What is a PSA test?

The PSA test is a simple blood test that measures the level of a protein, called PSA (prostate-specific antigen), being produced by the prostate tissue.

PSA screening is recommended for men who are at a higher risk for prostate cancer, or who have an abnormal digital rectal exam (DRE), or if there are symptoms of a prostate problem. Symptoms can include urinary pain or discomfort, urinating more frequently or feeling the urge to urinate more frequently.

What do the numbers mean?

A high or rising PSA level can indicate an increased risk of cancer. But it’s important to be aware that conditions other than prostate cancer can cause extra PSA to enter the blood, such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) or an inflammation of the prostate.

When should I start getting screened?

For most men regular PSA screening should start at age 50. However, the American Urological Association recommends a first-time PSA test at age 40 if you are at higher risk – for example, African-American men or men with a family history of prostate cancer.

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

Tips to reduce the risk of prostate cancer

  • Take those first steps to get checked out: Keep up with your annual physicals, including a digital rectum exam (DRE). If you are at higher risk for prostate cancer based on age, family history or race, talk to your doctor about regular PSA screenings.
  • Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet – including vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and foods that contain tomato, and eat less red meat
  • There is some evidence that a daily recommended dosage of Vitamin D (800 IU), and aspirin can reduce the risk of prostate cancer
  • Get regular, daily exercise.


Need a Referral?

It helps to have a urologist from John Muir Health who knows your health history and can help you get the treatment that’s right for you more quickly.

For more information, call our Nurse Navigator at 925-947-3322.

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