Top 3 misconceptions about prostate cancer
By Alex M Kandabarow MD
Whether it’s reviewing a PSA screening test, breaking a new prostate cancer diagnosis, or following up with a patient after treatment, I discuss prostate cancer with patients on a daily basis. I’ve seen patients’ attitudes towards prostate cancer range from indifference to paralyzing anxiety. Often those feelings are not aligned with the reality of the risks that those patients are facing. Here are three misconceptions about prostate cancer that I frequently help patients overcome:
1. “I don’t need to get checked because I feel fine”.
The most important thing to know about prostate cancer is that there are no symptoms of prostate cancer until it is much too late. This is why it is so important to screen for prostate cancer with a PSA blood test. In general, PSA screening is appropriate for men aged 55-70. However, if you have risk factors for prostate cancer, such as a family history of prostate cancer or African-American race, you may want to start screening as early as 40.
2. “My urine stream is weak… is it prostate cancer?”
It is extremely common for men to develop difficulty with urination as they get older. This is often due to an enlargement of the prostate. However, this enlargement of the prostate with aging is benign, and is not related to prostate cancer. So, just because you develop urinary symptoms does not mean you are developing prostate cancer, and just because you don’t have urinary symptoms doesn’t mean you are free of prostate cancer.
3. “A cancer diagnosis is a death sentence.”
Compared to many other cancers in the body, prostate cancer grows slowly. Low-grade prostate cancer can be managed with no treatment at all, as along as patients to adhere to an “active surveillance” regimen where the cancer is monitored for rapid progression. When higher-grade prostate cancer confined to the prostate is found, a complete cure is likely with appropriate treatment. Even if the cancer has spread, the number of new medications and treatments for metastatic prostate cancer have grown substantially over the past several years.