One in seven. That’s how many men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. It’s a frightening statistic. But here’s the flip side of those numbers. When it’s detected early, the survival rate past five years is 98 percent. If it isn’t found early? That drops to just 26 percent. The first step in that early detection is a simple blood test, and it’s available at Any Lab Test Now. Given that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to stop procrastinating and order the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to find out where you stand.
The PSA test measures the prostate-specific antigen in the blood. The prostate makes the PSA, but if there is a tumor, the tumor also makes PSA. That brings the level up. Other factors can increase your PSA number. Those include an enlarged prostate, being older, ejaculation, an infection or inflammation, and some medicines like testosterone. Some studies have found that riding a bike may even be a factor, because the seat puts pressure on the prostate. There are also factors that can lower your PSA number, too. Herbal mixtures, obesity, a regular aspirin regimen, and thiazide diuretics — a water pill used to treat high blood pressure — can all lower your PSA number. Since the ups and downs are caused by so many external factors it’s a good idea to get a baseline reading of your PSA sometime in your 40s. Regular screenings are recommended once you hit 50 — sooner if you fall into a high-risk group. If you are African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer, those screenings should start at 45.
The risk of developing prostate cancer rises rapidly after age 50. African-American men are 73 percent more likely to be diagnosed than Caucasian men. Researchers can’t explain the disparity. Family history is a big factor, too. If your brother or father has had it, you are two and a half times more likely to develop prostate cancer. Your diet may be putting you at risk. Men who pile red meat and dairy on their plates increase their risk. Doctors aren’t sure if the increased risk results from those foods, or the likely lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
The PSA screenings are important because, very often, men don’t experience any symptoms of prostate cancer. Signs to know are:
- The need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
- Difficulty starting urination, or holding it back.
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Painful or burning urination.
- Difficulty having an erection.
- Painful ejaculation.
- Blood in urine or semen.
- Frequent pain or stiffness in lower back, hips or upper thighs.
Prostate cancer is often slow-growing and might never cause these problems. But some forms are more likely to spread to other parts of the body — especially to the lymph nodes and bones. Knowing your PSA number and discussing what it means with your doctor can help you make the best decision about your health.