Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer among men in the United States. In fact, one in six men will develop it. John Strickland, MD, of Kansas City Urology Care has a passion for prostate health and encourages men to keep track of their PSA levels. It can be as simple as taking your blood pressure and can save lives.
Prostate health is evaluated by PSA levels (from a blood test) and a digital rectal exam. Men over the age of 40 should have an annual physical, which includes prostate evaluation. PSA levels are particularly important in men with a family history of prostate cancer. Even if your level is considered normal, further evaluation is necessary if it’s much higher than the previous year.
PSA levels are elevated in patients with prostate cancer, but also in those with infection or inflammation of the prostate. The following symptoms often occur after the cancer has spread:
• Weak or interrupted flow of urine
• Frequent urination (especially at night)
• Trouble urinating
• Pain or burning during urination
• Blood in the urine or semen
• A pain in the back, hips or pelvis that doesn’t go away
• Painful ejaculation
Gleason Score is a rating of cancer cells obtained via biopsy. It ranges from two to 10, and describes how different the cancer cells look from normal cells and how likely it is that the tumor will spread. The lower the number, the less likely the tumor is to spread.
• Stage I. Cancer is found in the prostate only. PSA is typically lower than 10 and the Gleason score is 6 or lower.
• Stage II. Cancer is still found in the prostate only, but the PSA and Gleason scores are typically higher than what you find in Stage I. In Stage IIA, the cancer is typically found in one lobe, while in stage IIB, the cancer is found in two lobes of the prostate.
• Stage III. Cancer has spread beyond the outer layer of the prostate on one or both sides and may have spread to the seminal vesicles. PSA and Gleason scores typically range from two to 10.
• Stage IV. Cancer has spread beyond the prostate, possibly to the nearby tissue organs such as the rectum, bladder, pelvic wall, lymph nodes or bone.
The PSA test and digital rectal exam provide early detection of irregularities that include an enlarged prostate or aggressive, fast-growing cancers. At this early stage, the survival rate is nearly 100 percent. It is important to discuss the results with your physician.
Stay tuned for part II of this blog that will focus on treatment options. The blog will be available the week of April 15.