Cancer Awareness

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Recognizing the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is a deadly disease that forms in the tissues of the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system that is found below the bladder and in front of the rectum. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers), while the National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 30,000 American men will lose their lives to prostate cancer in 2014, and roughly 15 percent of American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life.

Despite its status as a potentially deadly disease, prostate cancer can be beaten. In fact, the NCI notes that the five-year survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 2004 and 2010 was 98.9 percent, proving that a prostate cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. Like many types of cancer, prostate cancer is most effectively treated when discovered in its early stages. For example, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with localized prostate cancer, which describes cancer that is found only in the part of the body where it started, between 2004 and 2010 was 100 percent.

Men are often their own best friends when it comes to fighting prostate cancer. Men over 50 should speak to their physicians about routine prostate cancer screenings, which include the prostate-specific antigen test or the digital rectal examination. Such screenings can help detect prostate cancer early and dramatically improve a man's prognosis. In addition to screenings, men can learn the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer to further improve their chances of surviving a diagnosis.

Early signs of prostate cancer

Prostate cancer does not always show signs or symptoms in its early stages, and that's because it tends to be slow-growing. A sign of prostate cancer refers to something that a physician or healthcare professional can observe and recognize, while a symptom is something that only the person experiencing it can feel. It's important men recognize that certain symptoms associated with prostate cancer may be caused by other conditions and that the presence of these symptoms does not mean a man has prostate cancer. However, it's equally important that men who notice symptoms associated with prostate cancer bring them to the attention of their physicians immediately.

Changes in bladder habits are among the most common symptoms of prostate cancer, and these symptoms tend to be early indicators of the disease. These changes may include a frequent need to urinate, especially at night; an intense need to urinate; difficulty in starting or stopping the flow of urine; inability to urinate; weak and/or interrupted urine stream; and burning or pain during urination.

Blood in urine or semen and painful ejaculation may also indicate the presence of prostate cancer.

Late signs of prostate cancer

When prostate cancer is not detected early, the cancer then grows larger and may metastasize, or spread to other organs of the body. This spreading can produce the following late signs and symptoms, which differ greatly from those that appear during the early stages of prostate cancer.

* bone pain, especially in the back, hips, thighs or neck

* weight loss

* fatigue

* low red blood cell count (anemia)

* weakness or numbness in the legs or feet

* loss of bladder or bowel control

Though prostate cancer is a potentially deadly disease, men who prioritize screening and learn to recognize its signs and symptoms can vastly improve their chances of surviving a diagnosis.