07/06/2021 | Press release | Archived content
You've probably heard the horror stories, perhaps embellished, about getting a prostate exam. You've probably seen it lampooned in a movie. It may be the reason you haven't had an exam and are putting yourself at risk for discovering prostate cancer too late to save your life. However, horror stories are overblown and one of the biggest prostate cancer myths, Palomar Health Urologist Julian Anthony, MD, says.
'Misconceptions are leading to people not getting screened and directly leading to deaths. You're not talking about a surgical procedure that involves a lot of pain and discomfort, you're talking about an exam that takes literally seconds to do.'
One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, which translates to 250,000 new cases each year. More than 35,000 men die from this disease each year. The best prevention is early detection and treatment. Dr. Anthony supports the industry standard of getting tested every couple of years beginning at a minimum, age 50, if you have no risk factors. If you do have risk factors, such as you are African American or have a family history of cancer, you should start getting annual exams at age 40. If you have symptoms, you should get a screening today, regardless of age.
People with prostate cancer are often asymptomatic, which is why regular exams are recommended for people with no symptoms, no family history and no other risk factors. If you are experiencing symptoms, the cancer may have already spread, complicating treatment. However, the earlier you identify cancer, the higher your chances for a full recovery. Symptoms to look for are any kind of urinary problems such as change in urination patterns, having difficulty going, blood in the urine, getting up more at night, bone pain and erectile dysfunction. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should make an immediate appointment with your primary care physician who will do a screening.
The initial screening consists of a blood test and a digital rectal exam (touching the prostrate through the rectum to check for any abnormalities). The blood test is more accurately called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test that measures the level of PSA in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by the cells of your prostate. PSA levels are tested in a lab, with high levels indicating possible cancer. If the doctor detects any abnormalities in either the blood or size and shape of the prostate, he/she will order further testing, such as an MRI, ultrasound and/or biopsy.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, you have multiple treatment options including active surveillance. The cancer may be growing slowly enough that you don't need active intervention, especially if you are older. Radiation is another option as is surgery to remove the prostate.
'You can have your prostate removed and have little to no side effects,' Dr. Anthony said. Of course this assumes you are no longer interested in having children, as the prostate is a walnut-sized gland located near the bladder that produces seminal fluid.
The two major risks of prostate removal are urinary leakage and erectile dysfunction, but these side effects can normally be mitigated. In some cases, prostate removal has the opposite effect and helps restore a man's ability to have an erection.
Find a Doctor
Palomar Health has a number of urologists, in addition to Dr. Anthony, to discuss your individual needs. Please visit our website to find the physician that is right for you.