Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers found in American men, second only to skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. However, when found early, prostate cancer can often be treated and beaten.
Tulane Health System offers the latest technologies and tools to detect prostate cancer as early as possible. And once it is detected, patients have access to a multidisciplinary team of world-renowned physicians in specialties such as urology, surgical oncology, medical oncology and surgical oncology to ensure expert, coordinated care for New Orleans and the surrounding communities.
What is Prostate Cancer?
The prostate, a walnut-sized gland found only in men, makes some of the fluid in semen. Cancer of the prostate occurs when cells in the gland grow abnormally, forming a tumor that can spread to nearby tissue and other parts of the body.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
In its early stages, prostate cancer often presents without symptoms, making it difficult to detect. However, prostate cancer may cause:
- A frequent need to urinate, especially at night
- Difficulty starting or stopping urination
- Painful or burning urination
- Difficulty maintaining an erection
- Painful ejaculation
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain or pressure in the rectum
- Stiffness or pain in the lower back, hips or thighs
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please speak with a doctor as soon as possible.
Detecting Prostate Cancer
While prostate cancer is a serious disease, it is usually a slow-growing cancer, so early detection is critical to successful treatment outcomes.
These are some of the tests that may be used to confirm a diagnosis:
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) – This blood test is used to assess the level of PSA in the blood. A higher-than-normal level of PSA might indicate problems with the prostate, including cancer.
- Digital Rectal Exam (DRE) – For this exam, a physician inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities of the prostate.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of tissue is taken from the prostate and then examined to check for abnormalities.
- Prostate Health Index (PHI): Although its efficacy is still being studied, this new, more precise blood test may better distinguish an aggressive cancer from a low-risk cancer.
An abnormal age-adjusted prostate specific antigen (PSA) test or abnormal digital rectal (DRE) exam can be an indication of prostate cancer, but does not necessarily mean cancer is present. Abnormal findings should be followed by a biopsy of the prostate cells to determine if they are in fact cancerous.
Better Imaging, Better Accuracy
Tulane Health System now offers a new technology that combines MRI and a traditional biopsy that improves the accuracy of prostate cancer detection.
The UroNav fusion biopsy system is a new software-based technology that allows urologists to fuse MRI and ultrasound images while performing a prostate biopsy if prostate cancer is suspected. Compared to traditional biopsies, UroNav increases the accuracy of any significant prostate cancer detected.
This new technology allows physicians to better identify significant lesions that pose cancer heath risks and require aggressive therapy, versus lesions that don’t pose similar risks and likely only require additional monitoring. The results are earlier detection and better, more appropriate care.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
Primary factors that may increase the risk of developing prostate cancer are:
- Age — Prostate cancer is rare in men under 40, but becomes increasingly more prevalent after age 50.
- Race/ethnicity — African-American men develop prostate cancer more than other men, but the reason for the disparity is unclear.
- Geography — Prostate cancer is seen more in North America than in other regions but, as with the race/ethnicity disparity, scientists don’t yet know why.
- Family history — Men whose brother(s) or father are diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than double the chance of developing the disease.