Prostate cancer is not just an old man’s disease. For a man, it’s important to rethink the common wisdom that you can be ‘too young’ for prostate cancer. In fact, about 1 in 325 men will be diagnosed under the age of 49. Former Chicago Bears player Todd McMillon was only 39. There are many misconceptions about prostate cancer, but let us set the record straight: all men are at risk for the disease.
Prostate cancer is a cancer that starts in the prostate, a walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system that helps regulate urine flow and produces semen. The prostate is a pretty important gland, so men should keep a close eye on its health – especially considering prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men after skin cancer. Men don’t often like to talk about their prostates, but take it from us: You want to be aware of your risk.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Age, family history, and race are all important risk factors – in fact, African-American men are 1.7x more likely to be diagnosed with the disease, and 2.4x more likely to die from it. Diet, as well as exposure to certain chemicals like Agent Orange, are also important risk factors to consider.
That being said, all men are at risk, so it’s important to consult with your doctor about being tested; detecting prostate cancer early gives you the best chance of living longer. In fact, more than 99 percent of men survive prostate cancer when it is caught early on. Why not have that conversation with your physician? It’s nothing to be ashamed of – making an informed decision is important, and early detection of the disease is vital.
The most common prostate cancer test is the PSA, or prostate-specific antigen test. This is a simple blood test that measures the presence of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, circulating in your bloodstream. This test is usually the first step in any prostate cancer diagnosis, but it alone cannot tell you if cancer is present. You can read our guidelines on when you should start talking to your doctor about this test. If your PSA concerns your doctor, they will perform a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) and potentially a biopsy. If there is cancerous tissue in your prostate, newly developed genomic tests can tell you how it might behave – if it is indolent or aggressive disease. These are all the tests that men don’t like to talk about, but don’t fear the finger! It could save your life.
Are There Things I Can Do to Prevent Prostate Cancer?
One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and roughly 2.9 million men living with the disease – that’s a little more than the population of Chicago. How can you prevent it? The truth is, there is no tried and true method. However, there are some things you can do to maintain good prostate health.
An overall wellness plan of healthy living is critical when it comes to prostate health and fighting prostate cancer. A growing list of studies shows a strong connection between fighting cancer and important choices in diet and nutrition, physical activity and exercise, and lifestyle. What it boils down to is this: get active, eat a healthy plant-based diet with minimal fat and red meat, stop smoking (or don’t start), and have regular physical exams where you talk with your doctor about your risk.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men; it is estimated that 180,890 men will be told they have prostate cancer in 2016. A man is diagnosed with the disease every 2.9 minutes. Be aware of the importance of prostate health and prostate cancer awareness – it could save your life.
Learn more about prostate cancer and how you can get involved with ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer and their mission to end it at www.zerocancer.org.