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Fact or fiction: Prostate cancer myths

Paoli Hospital February 4, 2014 General Wellness

Prostate Cancer mythsAccording to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death among men behind lung cancer. In 2013, an estimated one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 29,000 will die of the disease.

With statistics like these, it’s important to not only understand what prostate cancer is, but what it’s not. There is plenty of information available about prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, but not all of it is true. Below, Joseph Graversen, MD, urologist at Paoli Hospital, dispels some common myths surrounding prostate cancer, and the real explanation behind them.

Prostate cancer only affects elderly men: False.

While it’s true that prostate cancer becomes more common with age (the average age of diagnosis is 67, men of all ages should understand and recognize the risk factors, especially if they have a family history. Beginning at age 40, talk to your doctor about annual prostate specific antigen (PSA) tests, which can be used to detect early signs of prostate cancer.

If you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t have prostate cancer: False.

Unfortunately, prostate cancer is a disease that has very few symptoms. But just because there are no symptoms doesn’t rule out prostate cancer. PSA testing often detects prostate cancer before you begin to experience symptoms. Still, keep an eye out for symptoms like blood in your urine, difficulty urinating, or discomfort in the pelvic area, which have all been associated with prostate cancer.

Prostate treatment can cause impotence and incontinence: False.

Erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence are possibilities following prostate cancer treatment, but not all men will experience these complications. These side effects are even less likely when the cancer is treated in its early stages.

A high PSA level means that you have prostate cancer: False.

An elevated PSA level can be due to prostate cancer, but it’s only one of the many causes that could account for an elevated PSA. Prostatitis and an enlarged prostate are both relatively common and could also be causes. In the same way that a high PSA level does not indicate prostate cancer, a low PSA level does not rule it out. Your doctor can explain your results.

Have questions about your prostate health? Make an appointment with a Main Line Health doctor who can talk to you about your risk for prostate cancer, as well as treatment options and preventative tests.