Published on January 12, 2024
Reports of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis has brought increased attention to the most common cancer type among men in the U.S. With all the news that’s circulating, it’s important to know the facts.
Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland. Most prostate cancers are diagnosed in those who are older than 65, and for prostate cancers that haven’t begun to spread, the five-year survival rate is close to 100%. Here’s what you need to know about screening and treatment options, when to start discussions with your health care provider and what factors may increase your risk.
There are usually no symptoms of prostate cancer in the early stages. When present, some people experience symptoms that can include:
Symptoms like these may also be caused by other health problems, including having an enlarged prostate from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). If you notice symptoms, talk to your health care provider.
If you have a prostate gland and you are at average risk, start talking to your health care provider at age 50 about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening. That talk might need to happen earlier if:
Early detection of prostate cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives; however, some people are treated for prostate cancers that will never cause them harm, and they must live with any side effects or complications of the treatment.
Treatment options vary—depending on the stage of the cancer and your other medical conditions—and include surgery, radiation, hormone therapy or a combination. Chemotherapy can also be used in more advanced stages of prostate cancer.
Some prostate cancers grow very slowly and do not require immediate treatment. In these cases, you and your health care provider may decide on “active surveillance” with regular follow-ups, including lab work and physical exams, usually every three to six months with reassessment if your condition changes.
Who is at increased risk?
Due to his age and race, Austin was at increased risk for prostate cancer. It’s important to be aware of your personal risk factors and to discuss them with your health care provider.
If you have a prostate gland, you are at increased risk for prostate cancer if you:
How can I reduce my risk?
While there are some risk factors you can’t do anything about, like your age, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of prostate cancer or catch it early to achieve better outcomes for your health.
Adjust your lifestyle: Quit smoking if you are a tobacco user. Quitting smoking may slow the development of prostate cancer or lessen its severity. Additionally, maintain a healthy weight.
Consider screening: Talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening. Austin’s prostate cancer was reportedly detected after a routine prostate cancer screening.
Know your family history: If you are Black or if you have a close relative (father, son or brother) who had prostate cancer before age 65, start talking to your health care provider about prostate cancer when you are 45. If more than one close relative had prostate cancer before 65, have that conversation at age 40.
Early Detection = Better Outcomes. Know your risk factors and speak with your health care provider to stay ahead of a prostate cancer diagnosis. Find out what other screenings you may need at preventcancer.org/screening.