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What Men Don't Know About Prostate Cancer - But Should

Man and prostate cancer knowledge

A recent study conducted by Wakefield Research uncovers a surprising lack of awareness in men regarding the facts about prostate cancer. A separate study finds that it may be because the information is not being presented on a consumer-friendly level, causing misconceptions about the disease.

Confusion about prostate cancer often begins with how the information is presented. Most people, when trying to self-diagnose, turn to the internet. But for some men, including the 90 million who do not read at levels higher than high school, can find the material too daunting. The National Institutes of Health suggests that patient information material be presented on a consumer-friendly level, perhaps written on a 4th to 6th grade level to ensure that they are easy to understand.

Web pages with scores that were easiest were News-Medical Net which was found to have an 8th grade level, Consumer Reports.org at a level of 8.9, Family Doctor.org with a level of 8.95, UPMC Cancer Centers at 9.2 and NIH Pubmed Health with a level of 9.8. Of course, here at Emaxhealth.com, we also strive to make our articles helpful and consumer-friendly and we welcome feedback to help improve our site to make it more useful in all areas of health.

Cancer of the prostate is the second-leading cause of death in American men, with an estimated 241.000 new cases to be diagnosed this year alone. Unfortunately, many men believe that cancer of the prostate is less prevalent and/or less threatening than other cancers.

As with most cancers, the earlier the disease is caught, the better the chance of survival. However, per the Prostate Cancer Foundation, there are currently 25 different known types of prostate cancer, some being more aggressive than others. The only way to know for sure is to take a biopsy of the tumor. A pathologist and oncologist can work together to assess the potential aggressiveness of the cancer and make recommendations for treatment based on many factors, including a patient’s age and health status.

“It Won’t Happen to Me”

In “Mind Over Manhood: Misconceptions About Prostate Cancer,” 63% of men believed that they would not get prostate cancer. Many men were not aware of the risk factors that increase the risk of developing the disease, including race and family history. Some men believe prostate cancer is only an “old man’s disease.”

African American men are at a higher risk for prostate cancer than Caucasian and Hispanic men, but all men are at risk. In fact, one in six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime (remember that the risk for breast cancer in women is 1 in 8).

Family history is important – a man with a father or brother with prostate cancer is twice as likely himself to develop the disease – but, again, all men are at risk. The risk is higher if the family member was a younger age at diagnosis (less than 55 years old) or if the disease has affected three or more family members.

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Age is a factor; 65% of prostate cancers are diagnosed in men who are 65 and older, but more than 76,000 cases each year are in younger men.

"It is important that men be aware of risk factors," said urologist Stanley K. Frencher, Jr., MD, MPH. “Men need to talk with one another, father to son, brother to brother and friend to friend about this disease, their experiences when diagnosed and how they have dealt with the impacts of treatment."

For an interactive prostate cancer risk assessment, visit ClevelandClinic.org.

What are the symptoms I should be on the lookout for?

In the Wakefield study, an overwhelming majority of men could not recognize at least two of the symptoms of prostate cancer. Potential signs are urinary problems (frequent urination, interrupted urinary flow, pain or burning sensation), erectile dysfunction, frequent lower back pain, infertility, swelling of the legs and feet, and weight gain. But also be aware that prostate cancer is one of the most asymptomatic (no symptoms) cancers in oncology. Sometimes, the symptoms listed above may be mistaken for something else entirely. Hence, regular exams, which include a PSA test at intervals based on your doctor’s recommendations, are very important.

Fear of Treatment

Some of the treatments for prostate cancer, such as surgery or radiation therapy, can produce unwanted side effects such as urinary incontinence or sexual dysfunction. They are common, but do not happen to all men. The side effects are highly dependent on age and physical condition. Physicians have a number of therapies and aids at their disposal which can help with these problems should they occur, so do not be afraid or embarrassed to have an open, honest conversation with your oncologist from the start.

Also, many men are reliant upon their “other half” to do much of the work in scheduling appointments, etc. Couples should work together as a team as men are not the only ones affected by a prostate cancer diagnosis – it is a couple’s disease, says Tom Kirk of Us TOO International Education and Support Network. “No one should face prostate cancer alone,” he says. But men, don’t be afraid to speak up for what is important to you during treatment, including the importance of maintaining an intimate relationship with your spouse or partner.

Janssen Biotech has created a guide specific to men with advanced prostate cancer called My Prostate Cancer Roadmap which features a wide range of information relevant to both men and their loved ones dealing with the disease.

Janssen Biotech Inc.
"Prostate Cancer Patients Find It Difficult To Understand Websites." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 30 Oct. 2012. Web.
American Cancer Society
Prostate Cancer Foundation