Prostate cancer is a diagnosis that strikes fear in the hearts of men and the women who love them. Recently, many articles have been published about the controversy surrounding prostate cancer screening. A minority of doctors want to completely stop screening for the disease. They feel that they are doing more harm than good by detecting and treating small, non-aggressive cancers.
Is this an over-reaction? Is there a more modest approach? What are the facts?
Tin Ngo, M.D., a urologist with the Center for Specialty Care, a NorthBay affiliate in Fairfield, brings a common-sense approach to treating prostate cancer.
“We should screen men for prostate cancer simply because it is better to know the facts,” says Dr. Ngo. “After the diagnosis is made, we can always talk about personalizing treatment to balance the benefits and risks in a way that the patient, his family, and his doctors are comfortable with. This is better than putting our heads in the sand until prostate cancer causes symptoms, at which point many cases are too advanced to cure.”
Since the discovery of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) to screen for prostate cancer, the death rate from prostate cancer has gone down by 33 percent, he adds. Screening has saved the lives of thousands of men with prostate cancer.
Dr. Ngo offers the following facts about prostate cancer that every man should know:
- Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men. It is cancer that starts in the prostate gland—a small, walnut-sized structure that makes up part of a man’s reproductive system. This gland produces the fluid that transports sperm.
- Prostate cancer is a slow-growing disease that mostly affects older men. In fact, more than 60 percent of all prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65. The disease rarely occurs in men younger than 40 years of age.
- Treatment options for prostate cancer include surgery, radiation, or active surveillance.
- Treatment side effects from surgery and radiation are bothersome but occur infrequently. Only a small percentage of men are severely bothered by the side effects.
- Active surveillance is recommended for patients with small, low-grade cancers that are unlikely to cause harm. Approximately 25 percent of men on active surveillance will require treatment because the cancers eventually grow or become more aggressive. That means 75 percent of these men do not require invasive treatment.
To make an appointment with Dr. Ngo, call the Center for Specialty Care, a NorthBay Affiliate, at (707) 646-4180.
Know the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Most cancers in their early, most treatable stages don’t cause any symptoms. Early prostate cancer usually does not cause symptoms. However, if prostate cancer develops and is not treated, it can cause these symptoms:
- A need to urinate frequently, especially at night.
- Difficulty starting urination or holding back urine.
- Inability to urinate.
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Painful or burning urination.
- Difficulty in having an erection.
- Painful ejaculation.
- Blood in urine or semen.
- Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs.
Any of these symptoms may be caused by cancer, but more often they are due to enlargement of the prostate, which is not cancer.