The Truth About Prostate Cancer
Updated May 20, 2021
Reviewed by Andres F. Correa, MD
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.
Because of this, we hear many myths and half-truths about prostate cancer every day. 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: Determining whether you should be screened depends on a variety of risk factors, including your 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 for their specific scenario.
MYTH: You always need to be treated if you have prostate cancer.
FACT: In many cases, prostate cancer is slow growing. 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.
During active surveillance, a doctor monitors the cancer with repeat biopsies, physical exams, and imaging tests to make sure it 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, and 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.
Still, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of the disease.
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, so screening is the best way for individuals to detect it early. Most men are suspected of having the disease after getting a routine PSA test, which measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood.
In later stages, however, prostate cancer can cause the following symptoms:
- 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 these symptoms are often caused by conditions other than prostate cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of them, it is best to go see a doctor for further evaluation.
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 in your treatment options and outcomes. Receiving care at a nationally designated comprehensive cancer center like Fox Chase allows you to be treated by highly experienced prostate cancer specialists who can offer you the latest treatments and clinical trials.