For men, the current leading cancer diagnosis is prostate cancer.
For the "half-full" folks, one way to look at that is that more men are coming in for prostate exams, so the math indicates that we would find more. Half-empty folks, well, prostate cancer is still not a good thing to have. The National Cancer Institute has an estimated number of new cases of prostate cancer for this year at 238,590 - over a third the population of North Dakota.
But with the improvements we are making in detection and treatments, prostate cancer has very much become a treatable disease. Simply put, prostate cancer is a cancer that forms in tissues of the prostate (a male gland in the reproductive system) and usually grows slowly and remains confined to the prostate gland. There are some instances when it spreads beyond the prostate, and these can be serious.
Screening for abnormalities in the prostate is primarily centered around two tests, the DRE and the PSA.
The DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) has your doctor inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to examine whether there are any abnormalities with your prostate. The prostate is located directly next to the rectum.
The PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen test) is a blood sample drawn and analyzed. If too much PSA (an antigen that is produced by your prostate) is found in your bloodstream, more tests may be required.
If an abnormality is found, then it's time to see if we've got cancer. Ultrasounds are performed and samples of prostate tissue may be collected and tested. Your doctor will determine what tests are best for you if cancer is suspected (CT Scans, MRIs, etc.).
Their are four stages of prostate cancer, the first two signify that the cancer is contained within the prostate and with less to more aggressive cancer cells.
Stage III indicates the cancer has spread beyond the prostate to the more immediate area (seminal vesicles as an example).
Stage IV indicates the cancer has spread to nearby organs (bladder, bone, lungs, and more).
Treatment for prostate cancer has improved survival rate and the quality of life for those affected. The treatment factors are different for everyone, of course, as the rate of growth can be different, the stage, and other health factors all mix into the treatment strategy.
Examples of treatment include:
1) Some physicians find that it is best for their patients to be under active surveillance until further treatment is shown to be necessary.
2) Radiation therapy.
3) Hormonal therapy.
4) Surgery to remove the prostate.
5) Freezing prostate tissue (repeatedly freezing and thawing cancer cells to eventually kill them off)
6) Ultrasound - intensely heat the cells, causing the cancer cells to die.
Prostate cancer is found primarily in older men, so if you are either creeping up into your forties or if your family has a history of prostate cancer - ask your doctor what they think about getting you screened.
I work under the policy of "it's better to know than to just wait and see". Getting tested and finding nothing is worth the hassle. Talk to your doctor and decide what is best for you.