Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer affecting men in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, there were 174,650 new cases and 31,620 associated deaths in 2019 — up 6% from 2018.
"A simple rectal exam which takes less than a minute and a yearly PSA blood test starting at age 40 are good screening tools urologists use to detect any changes in the prostate gland," says Dr. David Samadhi, chairman of Urology and chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.
If you have an enlarged prostate gland, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, your doctor may recommend a conservative approach called "watchful waiting," according to Harvard Medical School.
However, watchful waiting doesn't mean "wait and do nothing," say the experts at Harvard. Some lifestyle changes should be in order:
- Avoid drinking fluids in the evening.
- Cut down on alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
- Drink only when you are thirsty and limit to an 8-ounce cup at a time.
- Avoid drinking fluids before going out in public or starting a trip.
- Urinate when you first get the urge and try to go to the bathroom on a regular schedule.
However, you should also be on the alert for these symptoms of prostate cancer, which is easily treatable if detected and diagnosed in early stages.
- Bladder control problems. Urinary incontinence can be a sign of problems with the prostate, a walnut-shaped gland located just below the bladder. Cancer can cause enlargement and weakening of the prostate, which in turn can block the urethra. As a result, eliminating can become difficult and erratic. Some symptoms include straining, leakage, an over-active bladder, and a feeling of incomplete urination.
- Pelvic pain. If you have shooting pain in the pelvic area, this could be a signal that cancer is attacking the nerves in that region. According to the American Cancer Society, pain or tightness in the hips, lower back and chest could indicate that the cancer is spreading to the bones. Although rare, feeling numbness in the legs or feet may be the result of cancer pressing on the spinal cord.
- Blood in semen or urine. If you spot blood while urinating or ejaculating — medically known as hematuria and hematospermia, respectively — have it checked out, says Dr. James Wysock, a urologist oncologist and assistant professor of urology at New York University Langone Health. Even a pinkish hue could be an early sign of a problem. If it's not prostate cancer, it could be the result of a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, a sexually transmitted disease, blood clotting, or inflammation.
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