The prostate is a gland located between a man’s bladder and penis, just in front of the rectum. Its function is to secrete fluid that nourishes and protects sperm. Unfortunately, this gland can become cancerous. All men ages 50 and up should undergo annual prostate cancer screenings from a physician. Men of African American descent should begin regular, annual screenings as early as age 40. Screenings are particularly important for those men who have a family history of prostate cancer.
One in thirty five men will die from prostate cancer. Therefore, it is important to know the warning signs. Some possible indicators of prostate cancer are difficulty initiating and/or stopping urination; frequent or painful urination; or pain on ejaculation. Blood may be present in urine or semen.
More serious possible indicators of prostate cancer include a urinary tract infection where a fever is present along with burning pain upon urination; bladder obstruction-despite drinking enough fluid, little to no urination is occurring; acute kidney failure, where there is no urination with little or no pain despite drinking enough fluid; or, deep bone pain in the back, hips and thighs. When bone pain is present, it is a possible sign that the prostate cancer has spread to the bones.
The first sign of cancer may be spine compression. This is where the cancer has spread to the tailbone and vertebrae region of the spine. The vertebrae become weakened, causing it to collapse on the spinal cord, which in turn causes problems with function. Should this occur, it can cause difficulty in walking, weakness in the legs, difficulty urinating or defecating, as well as numbness or a tingling sensation in the groin area. If any of these symptoms occur, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.
While there are several tests to diagnose cancer, the early screening test is known as the Digital Rectal Examination (DRE), which helps detect the cancer in its early stages. Because the prostate is internal and therefore cannot be seen externally on a man’s body, the test is performed by a physician by inserting a gloved finger into the rectum. The physician will feel for any hard, lumpy or abnormal areas. If cancer is suspected, the physician may then order an ultrasound guided biopsy. Other tests used by physicians to diagnose prostate cancer include a PSA blood test, cystoscopy or bladder scope test, as well as MRIs or CAT scans.