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What is prostate cancer?

About 1 man in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime


By Michael Butcher, DO, FACOS
September 13, 2017

     


Prostate cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in a man’s prostate gland. The prostate sits just below the bladder. In young men, the prostate is about the size of a walnut. As men age, the prostate usually grows larger.

As a doctor at Park Nicollet, I see prostate cancer most commonly in men older than 60. It usually grows slowly and can take years to grow large enough to cause problems. As with other cancers, treatment for prostate cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Here are a few things you should know.

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms in its early stages. When problems are noticed, they are most often problems with urinating. But these same symptoms can also be caused by an enlarged prostate.

When should you see a doctor?

Most men don’t know they have prostate cancer until it is found during a regular medical exam. Some of the symptoms to watch for include:

  • Not being able to urinate at all
  • Having a hard time starting or stopping the flow of urine
  • Having to urinate often, especially at night
  • Having pain or burning during urination
  • You have difficulty having an erection
  • You have blood in your urine or semen
  • You have deep and frequent pain in your lower back, belly, hip or pelvis.

How is prostate cancer diagnosed?

The most common way to check for prostate cancer is to have a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. If your PSA is high, you may need a prostate biopsy to figure out the cause. A biopsy means that your doctor takes tissue samples from your prostate gland and sends them to a lab for testing.

How is prostate cancer treated?

Your treatment will depend on what kind of cancer cells you have, how far they have spread, your age and general health, and your preferences.

You and your doctor may decide to manage your cancer with active surveillance or to treat it with surgery or radiation.

If you’re over age 80 or have other serious health problems, like heart disease, you may choose not to have treatments to cure your cancer. Instead, you can just have treatments to manage your symptoms. This is called watchful waiting.

Choosing treatment for prostate cancer can be confusing. Talk with your doctor to choose the treatment that’s best for you.

How can treatment affect your quality of life?

Your age and overall health will make a difference in how treatment may affect your quality of life. Any health problems you have before you’re treated, especially urinary, bowel or sexual function problems, will affect how you recover.

Both surgery and radiation can cause urinary incontinence (leaking urine) or impotence (not being able to have an erection).

Schedule an appointment with a doctor to talk about your prostate cancer risk:

Find out what you’ll pay for an office visit at our Twin Cities metro and western Wisconsin medical clinics.

About Michael Butcher, DO, FACOS

Dr. Michael Butcher is an osteopathic surgeon and doctor of sexual medicine at Park Nicollet and HealthPartners. As a “D.O.”, or doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treats men’s health concerns related to sexual dysfunction, erectile dysfunction and more. Outside of work, he enjoys travel, skiing, cooking and spending time with family.

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