First of all, the disease is prostate cancer, not prostrate cancer.
Much more importantly, however, is the fact that more men are diagnosed every year with prostate cancer than women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s true. You just don’t hear or read about it as much. It’s time to change this.
The prostate gland is a mysterious, walnut-sized gland that sits below the bladder, in front of the rectum and surrounds the urethra – and only men have one. Its purpose is to provide fluid to propel sperm.
Most men are unaware of their prostate until it starts giving them trouble. Around middle age, the gland can begin to enlarge and put pressure on the bladder, making urination difficult. This is called BPH: benign prostatic hyperplagia. It is not prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer, like many cancers, happens when something goes “wonky” (real medical term) in the cells. We can’t always tell why, but we do know that exposure to certain chemicals (Agent Orange, for one) can increase the risk of prostate cancer. There is also a genetic link. If a father, brother or other close relative has had prostate cancer, it greatly increases your risk of developing the disease.
What should you do? As with all cancers, early diagnosis is critical to the cure. It is recommended that every man have a baseline screening prostate exam at age 50, but earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer. The exam consists of two parts: a PSA (prostatic-specific antigen) blood test and a DRE (digital rectal exam – a finger test). If both are normal, then these tests should be repeated annually to track any changes.
If you are at least 50 and your doctor has not mentioned a prostate exam, be proactive by asking for one! A lot of men are reluctant to have the DRE because it may be a little uncomfortable, but it lasts only 10 to 15 seconds. It’s far less uncomfortable than suffering a fatal case of prostate cancer.