Each year, almost 250,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with prostate cancer. As with other forms of cancer, this is a dangerous disease that is more easily treated if detected early. Let's discuss what may cause prostate cancer, the 5 common warning signs associated with it, and what to do if you suspect that you have it.
What Causes Prostate Cancer?
Put simply, prostate cancer is caused by changes in a person's genetic code or DNA. There are two important types of genes that may play a role in the development of prostate cancer:
- Genes that help cells grow, divide, and stay alive are called oncogenes.
- Genes that keep cell growth under control, repair mistakes in our DNA, or trigger cellular death at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
If either gene type changes (or "mutates"), then it can result in cells growing out of control — e.g., cancer.
What are 5 Common Warning Signs of Prostate Cancer?
In many cases, prostate cancer does not produce clear symptoms in its initial stages of development. In fact, many men may have prostate cancer without even realizing it.
However, there are some common warning signs that could indicate a person has prostate cancer. Five of the most common ones include:
- Pain and/or a "burning sensation" when urinating or ejaculating
- Frequent urination, especially during the nighttime
- Trouble starting urination, or stopping urination once in progress
- Sudden erectile dysfunction
- Blood in either urine or semen
Of course, these five symptoms are not the only potential warning signs of prostate cancer. Other possible indicators could include weak urine flow, and unexplained pain deep in the groin area when sitting down. (The prostate gland is located beneath the bladder and in front of the rectum.) If cancer has spread beyond the prostate, a man may also suffer lower body swelling, abnormal urinary or bowel habits, or inexplicable (possibly sudden) weight loss.
It's important to note that most of these symptoms are not unique to prostate cancer, and may indicate a different condition that is not life-threatening.
What are the Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer?
Some of the greatest risk factors for prostate cancer include:
- Age. Prostate cancer is very rare in men younger than 40 years of age. In contrast, approximately 60% of prostate cancer cases occur in men that are older than 65.
- Race. African-American men tend to be at greater risk for prostate cancer compared to non-Hispanic whites, whereas Asian-Americans and Hispanic/Latino men are less susceptible to this disease.
- Location. Prostate cancer is most common in North America, Europe, Australia, and the Caribbean. It is rarer in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. This may be because of more intensive screening procedures for the disease in certain countries, although lifestyle factors such as diet could also play a key role in the difference.
- Family history. In many cases, there is a strong hereditary factor associated with the emergence of prostate cancer. In fact, men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer have a much higher risk of developing it themselves.
Other possible risk factors could include a dairy-rich diet, obesity, smoking, and exposure to harmful chemicals.
What Should You Do if You Have the Symptoms of Prostate Cancer?
If you are presenting one or more of the warning signs of prostate cancer, then it would be wise to promptly consult with a qualified physician. Your symptoms may indicate another, less serious condition; and even if you do receive a diagnosis of prostate cancer, it is much easier to treat this disease when detected early on.
To learn more, contact our team of medical professionals at Care New England today.