Aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States.
“Fortunately, prostate cancer is very treatable,” says Dr. Zachary Mucher, urologist, affiliated with Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital. “Prostate cancer is typically a slower growing cancer and one that is manageable. It is rarely a death sentence.”
The prostate gland is near the bladder and about the size and shape of a walnut. It surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder. As a man ages, the prostate will start to enlarge and can squeeze the urethra making it difficult to pass urine. This condition is called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Studies show about 60% of men over the age of 60 will experience BPH.
Symptoms of BPH include, difficulty starting to urinate, urination that starts and stops, a weak urine stream and waking up several times during the night to urinate. Diagnosing prostate cancer can be difficult because the signs and symptoms often mirror those of BPH.
The most common test used to diagnose prostate cancer is a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland and found in a man’s blood. When the PSA level in the blood reaches or exceeds four nanograms per milliliter of blood that can be an indication of prostate cancer.
“While we’ve seen mortality rates drop 22% since we started using the PSA test, it’s not the perfect test,” says Dr. Mucher. “A PSA reading of four doesn’t necessarily mean you have prostate cancer. I’m more concerned with watching that number over time and managing the patient’s prostate health because there is risk and side effects to treatment that can be worse than the disease itself.”
The potential risks associated with a PSA test are more related to the choices a patient and doctor may make based on the results rather than the test itself. The decision to undergo further testing and treatment for prostate cancer, such as a biopsy, can result in pain, bleeding and infection. Studies estimate between 17 and 50 percent of men with prostate cancer detected by PSA tests have tumors that wouldn’t result in symptoms during their lifetime.
“The treatments we’re able to offer our patients are improving every day,” says Dr. Mucher. “Men need to remember that both benign and cancerous prostate growth, are very common and treatable. What’s important is finding a doctor who is comfortable in managing their prostate health. We need to be judicious with regard to who we screen and who we treat.”
The American Cancer Society recommends men discuss prostate cancer screening with their doctor at age 50. For patients at high risk, including those with a family history of prostate cancer or African-Americans, it’s recommended to consult your doctor at age 45.
Dr. Mucher recommends eating fewer processed foods and taking on a more “Mediterranean diet” to help maintain a healthy prostate. A Mediterranean diet includes plant based foods, whole grains and replacing butter with healthier fats like olive oil.
“It’s important for men to remember that whether it is benign growth of the prostate or cancer, both are very common and treatable.” says Dr. Mucher.
Dr. Mucher practices at Memorial Hermann Medical Group Multi-Specialty Clinic Sugar Land. You can schedule an appointment by calling 281-725-5970 or using ScheduleNow.