Prostate cancer is relatively common among older men, but it is usually an extremely slow-growing cancer. Therefore, if a man is 75 years of age and is diagnosed with the disease, he and his doctor may opt to not treat it – and just keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t become aggressive.
For most men, doctors recommend screenings beginning at around age 50, or earlier if an immediate family member – father, brother, son, or uncle – has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The screenings might include a digital rectal exam (DRE), which is done manually by a doctor; in addition, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is done with a simple blood draw.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
If a doctor sees an irregularity in a screening test, he will order a second round of tests. This may include a transrectal ultrasound, which uses sound waves to create a 3-D picture of the prostate gland.
The physician may also order a biopsy of the prostate to test in a lab for the presence of cancer cells. A newer test called an MRI fusion can help in precision targeting of collecting the biopsy by using real-time ultrasound technology and recent MRI results as a map of the patient’s prostate.
If a man has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, a PSA test is usually done on a regular basis to check on the levels of prostate-specific antigen in his blood. A sudden rise in PSA levels can indicate that prostate cancer cells are increasing, even if the prostate has been removed in a prostatectomy.
Measuring How Aggressive Prostate Cancer Is
When a biopsy confirms the presence of cancer, the next step is to determine how aggressive it is. A pathologist in a laboratory will examine the cells and grade the cancer using the Gleason scale of 1-10. A higher number means it is more aggressive and requires addressing sooner rather than later.
Typically, prostate cancer is a very slowly-progressing cancer. A Gleason score of 6 or less is low-grade cancer, while 7 is medium-grade and a score of 8-10 indicates aggressive cancer.
If a man has a high-grade cancer, the doctor will likely recommend a full prostatectomy. However, if the cancer has already metastasized (spread to other organs), the cancer may be treated with radiation or other types of therapy.
Living With a Cancer Diagnosis
The Gleason score and the stage of the prostate cancer will determine whether treatment needs to start right away. Some men who have been diagnosed with low-grade prostate cancer never receive treatment, as this type of cancer is such a slow-growing cancer.
In these cases, doctors may opt for active surveillance. This consists of regular follow-up visits, blood tests (PSA tests), rectal exams (DREs), and possibly additional biopsies to verify that the cancer has not become more aggressive.
Alternative Cancer Treatments
Many different kinds of therapeutic treatments exist to help those living with prostate cancer to adapt to their circumstances. Some of these include:
- Art therapy
- Exercise programs
- Relaxation techniques
- Learning to play an instrument
These can enhance quality of life for a man who may be constantly worrying about slow-progressing prostate cancer.
Prostate Checkup in Phoenix
If you want a checkup for prostate health and would like to see a skilled doctor who can make the proper evaluations and treatments, contact us at Ironwood Urology today.
Call (480) 961-2323 or request an appointment online, and let us help you stay in optimum shape and excellent health.