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6 Myths About Prostate Cancer

These days, it can be tough to determine if and when you should be screened for prostate cancer.

Screening recommendations have gone through significant shifts over the years. Men are urged to have conversations with their doctor about things that were once taken for granted; and treatments are ever-evolving.

So it’s no wonder that myths and half-truths about prostate cancer abound. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to bust some of those myths with medical facts.

MYTH: Every man should be screened for prostate cancer.

FACT: Not true. Determining whether you should be screened depends on a variety of risk factors, including age, overall health, race, family history of the disease, and personal preferences. All men should, however, talk with their doctor about the pros and cons of screening in order to make an informed decision about testing. It’s important to learn about current screening guidelines.

MYTH: You always need to be treated if you have prostate cancer.

FACT: In many cases, prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer and may not cause any problems during a man’s lifetime. Treatments for prostate cancer can sometimes cause undesirable side effects, such as incontinence and impotence, which is why some men opt for an approach called active surveillance to delay treatment or forgo it entirely.

In active surveillance, a doctor monitors the cancer with repeat biopsies, physical exams, and imaging tests to make sure the cancer isn’t growing. Men will only be treated if the cancer starts to grow or shows signs of becoming more aggressive.

MYTH: You don’t have to worry about prostate cancer if you don’t have a family history of it.

FACT: Prostate cancer does run in some families. Still, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease.

Inherited gene changes can increase a man’s risk for prostate cancer. For instance, inherited mutations of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which raise the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, can also increase the risk of prostate cancer in some men.

MYTH: If I don’t have symptoms, I don’t have prostate cancer.

FACT: Prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages. Most men learn they have the disease after getting a PSA test. In later stages, prostate cancer can cause symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating or frequent urination
  • Feeling like you can’t empty your bladder
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Pain with ejaculation
  • Pain in the lower back, lower pelvic area, hips, or upper thighs
  • Weight loss

Keep in mind that more often than not these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than prostate cancer.

MYTH: It’s easy to determine Gleason scores.

FACT: A Gleason score is a grading or scoring system used by doctors to access the aggressiveness of a prostate cancer. It’s based on how cells from the tumor look under a microscope. The higher the Gleason score, the more likely cells are to grow and spread. A lower score means less aggressive disease.

The Gleason score is used to help plan treatment and determine prognosis, which is why it’s important to determine it correctly.

Fox Chase has a proven history of determining accurate Gleason scores. It’s one of many reasons why men diagnosed with prostate cancer should get a second opinion at a dedicated cancer center like Fox Chase.  

MYTH: It doesn’t matter where you’re treated for prostate cancer—the care is all the same.

FACT: Where you receive treatment can make a big difference. Getting treated at a Nationally Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center like Fox Chase Cancer Center has several advantages. One is that every person in the facility is focused on cancer care. You’ll be treated by highly experienced specialists, all working together toward one goal. Another advantage is that a dedicated cancer center can offer more advanced treatment options to patients and provides access to clinical trials.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for a referral to a cancer care center for a second opinion. A second doctor can confirm or uncover important details about your diagnosis.

Learn more about prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment at Fox Chase.