Be proactive. As you enter middle age, be proactive and ask your doctor about establishing a prostate cancer screening schedule that makes sense for you, given your risk factors and your family history. Exactly when you begin screening depends on certain risk factors, based on incidence rates among different populations. These are questions to consider in setting up a proactive prostate cancer screening plan that works for you.
- How old are you?
- Do you have a family history of prostate, ovarian, breast, colon, or pancreatic cancers among your male and female relatives?
- Do you have African ancestry?
Take this quiz to find out what age to start talking to your doctor about prostate cancer screening.
Learn more about screening for prostate cancer.
Pay attention to warning signs. Unfortunately, there often aren’t any early warning signs for prostate cancer. A growing prostate tumor usually does not push against anything to cause pain, so the disease may be silent for many years. However, there are certain signs and symptoms you should bring to your doctor’s attention. In some cases, often when the disease is advanced, prostate cancer can cause symptoms that include:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night, sometimes urgently
- Difficulty starting or holding back urination
- Weak, dribbling, or interrupted flow of urine
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty in having an erection
- A decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pressure or pain in the rectum
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, pelvis, or thighs
Keep the conversation open. Sharing health information can feel uncomfortable. Many people feel that their health is a private matter, and many people feel embarrassed about their health problems. In some families and cultures, it’s almost taboo to discuss problems.
It’s normal to feel a need for privacy around your health, but the first person in a family to learn they carry a mutation can give the greatest possible gift to their children, their siblings, and their cousins when they share that knowledge.
The latest cancer research, including studies funded in part by PCF, has revealed much new information about the interplay between genes, cancer, and cancer treatments. Many types of cancer are much more prevalent in people with certain genetic mutations, so if you learn that a blood relative is experiencing one of these cancers—even if they are the first or only relative diagnosed—you should start a conversation with your doctor about ramping up your own screening regimen or considering genetic testing.
Watch for breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers in particular, as these are known to arise in families sharing certain genetic mutations.
Genetic tests are fairly new, but they represent an opportunity to get ahead of cancer. If you’re from one of those families that has historically stayed hush about illness, you have a chance to turn the tide and improve the health of the entire family.
The chance of cure is higher if prostate cancer is caught early, and some low risk cancers may not need immediate treatment. But there are often no early signs and symptoms. Many men have no reason to suspect anything is wrong, but learn they have cancer after a routine screening. Speak with your doctor to create a screening plan that’s right for you.