Did you know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States, striking one in six men? Prostate cancer has an effect not only on the man but on his family too.

The prostate is a small gland that sits under the bladder and in front of the rectum. The urethra, which carries urine and semen out of the body, runs through the prostate, and on either side of the prostate are the nerves that control erectile function. Although the prostate is not essential for life it plays an important role in reproduction.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, early-stage prostate cancer usually has no symptoms but it can often be detected by your doctor at a routine checkup. You should always see your health care provider if you experience persistent hip, pelvis, or back pain, difficulty urinating, a frequent urge to urinate (particularly at night), a weak flow of urine, painful or burning urination or blood in your urine.

It is important to note that about half of all men, around the age of 50, develop enlargement of the prostate. This condition, called BPH, is not cancer and can be treated if it causes problems such as difficulty urinating.

There are two screenings available, including a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test and a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). A PSA test may detect a prostate-related problem; an abnormal result may mean additional testing is needed. A prostate biopsy can confirm the presence of prostate cancer. The American Urological Association supports the decision to screen for prostate cancer with the PSA and DRE, incorporating other known risk factors including family history of the disease, age, ethnicity, and the presence of a previous negative prostate biopsy.

There are several treatment options that men should discuss with their doctor. For more information visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate.

Tips for Prostate Cancer Prevention & Healthy Living:

  • The American Urological Association recommends that men age 40 and over speak to their physician about a baseline prostate cancer exam. After age 40, men should consult with their doctor about the need for a yearly prostate cancer test.
  • Men at higher risk should begin annual screening by age 40. African-American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer are considered at high risk.
  • Eat healthy. Studies show that people who eat a high fat diet have a greater risk of developing prostate cancer. Conversely, fiber, fruits and cooked tomatoes have all been shown to reduce risk.
  • Exercise regularly and manage your weight. Obesity may be a contributing factor in a number of cancers, including prostate cancer.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
  • Drink a lot of water. This can help flush out your bladder; urine should be almost clear in color.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. You can show your support by learning more about this cancer and encouraging men in your life to visit their doctors regularly. You can also take advantage of free screenings that may be offered in your community.

Sources: American Urological Association, Prostate Cancer Foundation, Men’s Health Network, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.