Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer (after skin cancer) among men in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that one man in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, which amounts to approximately 220,800 new cases every year. In the U.S., roughly 30,000 men die of the disease every year. Many famous figures have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and their diagnoses can help to build awareness for the disease. Fortunately, the disease is very treatable if found early, and in some cases the only “treatment” recommended is active surveillance, or “watchful waiting.”
Prostate cancer is cancer that occurs in the prostate — a small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in men. Usually prostate cancer grows slowly and is initially confined to the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. However, while some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or even no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer may cause no signs or symptoms in its early stages. Prostate cancer that’s more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Trouble urinating
- Decreased force in the stream of urine
- Blood in semen
- Discomfort in the pelvic area
- Bone pain
- Erectile dysfunction
Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Doctors know that prostate cancer begins when some cells in your prostate become abnormal. Mutations in the abnormal cells’ DNA cause the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor that can grow to invade nearby tissue. Some abnormal cells can also break off and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body.
Factors that can increase your risk of prostate cancer include:
- Age: Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age.
- Race: For reasons not yet determined, black men carry a greater risk of prostate cancer than do men of other races. In black men, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.
- Family history: If men in your family have had prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.
- Obesity: Obese men diagnosed with prostate cancer may be more likely to have advanced disease that’s more difficult to treat.
You can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, choose healthy foods over supplements, exercise most days of the week, maintain a healthy weight, And most importantly talk to your doctor about increased risk of prostate cancer.
Currently some 2.9 million American men count themselves as prostate cancer survivors, including more than a few household names such as Robert De Niro, Mandy Patinkin, and Harry Belafonte. Read how they and others dealt with having prostate cancer in the public eye.
10. Joe Torre
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, 76, has been an outspoken advocate for prostate cancer awareness ever since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of the disease in 1999. “What scared me initially, in addition to my cancer, was that I didn’t have the answers I needed,” he said in a 2000 interview with the Johns Hopkins Prostate Bulletin.
“It certainly was a very difficult time emotionally. I was a mess, my blood pressure had skyrocketed — all from being scared about the cancer and what I had to do about it.” Thankfully, Torre had help by his side from his wife, Ali. “I don’t know what I would have done if Ali hadn’t been there to get me through it all. It later became very clear to me that you need a spouse or a good friend to be there for you, to keep you on level ground and to give you hope,” he said in the bulletin. “Otherwise, saddled with a cancer diagnosis, it becomes so easy to think of your cancer as some sort of a dark hole, and that there is no way out for you.”