Prostate cancer continues to be the second-leading cause of cancer death in men, with over 230,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. When someone is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the effects of the disease often reach to friends and family, particularly a wife or partner. The diagnosis, treatment and side effects of prostate cancer affect the surrounding family as well, and the impact is emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual.
Women Against Prostate Cancer is an organization dedicated to bringing together the women affected by prostate cancer and helping them understand prostate cancer, from detection to survival. Women Against Prostate Cancer acknowledges the vital role that women play in bringing an end to this killer of fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and friends.
Here are the 10 things that every women should know about prostate cancer:
1. What is the prostate gland? The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that is part of a man’s reproductive system located between the rectum and the bladder. It produces some of the milky liquid (semen) that carries sperm and helps regulate bladder control and sexual function.
2. What is prostate cancer? Prostate cancer occurs when cells in the prostate grow out of control. The cancer may remain confined to the gland but can spread to nearby lymph nodes, organs or even to the bones.
3. Who is at risk? The American Cancer Society estimates that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men. In 2012 it is estimated that: 241,740 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 28,170 men will die from prostate cancer.
4. Who is affected? Prostate cancer is not only a man’s disease; it can affect the emotional, psychological, and economic wellbeing of wives, partners and families as well.
5. What are the risk factors? Although scientists are uncertain about the exact cause of prostate cancer, some of the following risk factors have been linked to the disease:
- Age. Chances of having prostate cancer increase significantly after age 50.
- Family history. Men whose fathers, brothers, uncles or grandfathers have had prostate cancer are at double the risk.
- Race. The highest incidence of prostate cancer occurs in African-American men, and they are more than twice as likely to die from the disease.
- Veterans and men exposed to Agent Orange are at an increased risk of developing the disease as well.
6. What are the symptoms? Often early prostate cancer has no symptoms; however, some men experience: urination problems; blood in urine or semen; difficulty with erections; painful ejaculations; back or hip pain. (Note: Benign prostatic hyperplasia, commonly known as an enlarged prostate, can also cause these symptoms, so speak with a doctor.)
7. How can prostate cancer be detected early? Communication with a physician along with prostate cancer education is crucial to a man’s prostate health. The best early-detection tools currently available are a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam. The American Urological Association recommends a baseline PSA and DRE at age 40. Patients and physicians should discuss risk factors of screening and the need for future annual screenings. PSA values should be tracked over time, as significant increases could indicate the need for further testing.
If the PSA or DRE is abnormal, the patient needs to be informed of the risks and the benefits of invasive prostate cancer screening (needle biopsy). Every case is unique, so getting a second opinion, ideally at a cancer center, can be an important next step. Wives and partners can be invaluable teammates in achieving this goal.
8. What are common treatment options? Seek the advice of an oncology, urology, or primary care expert; treatment options vary depending on the patient’s medical history and profile. The most common treatments include prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate), radiation therapy, hormonal therapy, and active surveillance.
9. What can women do to encourage men’s prostate health? Women can ensure that the men in their families get their annual physicals and, if necessary, make the appointment for him. Early detection is the key to a good quality of life. If your partner is diagnosed with prostate cancer, attend his medical appointments with him and stay as well informed as possible. Support groups such as those offered by Us Too International Prostate Cancer Education & Support Network and Women Against Prostate Cancer are invaluable resources for support and information.
10. What is the survival rate? The good news is that when prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it is highly treatable. The National Cancer Institute reports that the five-year survival rate of cancer that remains contained in the prostate is 100 percent. Unfortunately, once the cancer has spread, survival rates decrease significantly.