Understanding Prostate Cancer: Why Screening Matters

Christian Squillante, MDMedical Oncologist
Co-Director, Genitourinary Cancer Center
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper

Christian Squillante, MD Medical Oncologist Co-Director, Genitourinary Cancer Center MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper

Prostate cancer is a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. It is often highly treatable, especially when detected early. Let’s break down what prostate cancer is, how it’s treated, and why screening is essential.

How common is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate gland, a small walnut-shaped organ in men, grow uncontrollably. It’s the second most common cancer in men worldwide, with around 1 in 8 men being diagnosed during their lifetime. While the risk increases with age, it can affect men of all ages.

Treatment options

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on various factors like the stage of cancer, the aggressiveness of the tumor, and the patient’s overall health. Fortunately, there are several effective treatment options available:

  1. Active Surveillance: For low-risk cases, doctors may recommend monitoring the cancer without immediate treatment, only intervening if it shows signs of progression.
  2. Surgery: Surgical procedures like radical prostatectomy involve removing the prostate gland. It’s often recommended for localized or early-stage cancers.
  3. Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It can be delivered externally (external beam radiation) or internally (brachytherapy).
  4. Hormone Therapy: Prostate cancer cells often rely on male hormones like testosterone to grow. Hormone therapy aims to reduce the levels of these hormones or block their effects on cancer cells.
  5. Chemotherapy: In advanced cases where cancer has spread beyond the prostate, chemotherapy drugs may be used to kill cancer cells or slow their growth.
  6. Immunotherapy: This treatment boosts the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells.

Importance of Screening

MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper strongly recommends that men talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate screening. The recommendations below for prostate cancer screening apply to most men.

Age 45

  • Discuss screening risks and benefits with a health care provider.
  • If you choose to be screened, get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
  • Digital rectal exam is an important component of thorough screening.
  • Continue testing based on your previous test results.

Age 75 or older

  • Your doctor can help you decide if you should continue screening for prostate cancer.
  • Screening for men age 85 or older is not recommended.

African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are at increased risk and should start the discussion about screening with their health care provider at age 40.

Along with regular exams, practice awareness. This means you should be familiar with your body. That way you’ll notice changes, like irregular urination. Then, report them to your doctor without delay.

Screening for prostate cancer involves testing for early signs of the disease in men who have no symptoms. The most common screening tests include:

  1. Digital Rectal Examination (DRE): A doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for any abnormalities in size, shape, or texture.
  2. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Test: This blood test measures the levels of PSA, a protein produced by the prostate gland. Elevated PSA levels can indicate the presence of prostate cancer, although other factors like age and prostate size can also affect PSA levels.

While screening can help detect prostate cancer early, it’s essential for men to discuss the risks and benefits of screening with their health care providers, especially considering the potential for false-positive results and overdiagnosis. Screening guidelines may vary based on factors like age, family history, and overall health.

Prostate cancer is a common, but highly treatable disease, particularly when detected early through regular screening. By understanding the available treatment options and discussing screening with their health care providers, men can take proactive steps to maintain their prostate health and overall well-being.

Christian Squillante, MD is a Medical Oncologist and Co-Director of the Genitourinary Cancer Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.

One Comment

  1. Charles Trent

    Dr. Christian Squillante is an EXCELLENT Doctor that saved me from Prostate Cancer. Mine is hardly detectable now; THANKS to MD Anderson & especially Dr. Squillante!!

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