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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time to bring awareness to the most common non-skin cancer diagnosed in men and the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men, after lung cancer. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland in the male reproductive system which produces fluid that makes up part of semen. Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms but because of effective screening options, the disease is often caught before it spreads and survival rates are relatively good for this type of cancer.

There are three well-established risk factors for prostate cancer: 

  • Age
  • Family history (including genetics)
  • Race

As men age, their risk for prostate cancer increases considerably. About 60% of prostate cancer is diagnosed in men over age 65. That’s why talking with your doctor about screening for prostate cancer as you enter middle age is so important. 

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, all men, starting at about age 45 (age 40 if you are Black or have a strong family history of prostate or other cancers), should talk to their doctor about screening for prostate cancer. Routine screening starts with a PSA blood test and may include a rectal exam – both are simple and relatively painless. 

Prostate cancer screening starts with a PSA test. This is a blood test and if your doctor is already drawing blood for other tests, the PSA test order can be added. Results should be back within a few days. The test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and a small amount is normally released into the bloodstream.

In evaluating the results of your PSA test, your doctor will consider: 

  • Your age
  • Your prostate size
  • The results of your previous PSA tests
  • Other medical conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostatitis

When there’s a problem with the prostate, more PSA is released. A rising PSA can be one of the first signs of prostate cancer. A PSA level above 3 ng/mL may suggest the need for further testing.

For information on prostate health, concerns and testing visit here.

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