State health officials cite key factors in prostate cancer risks

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Capital News Service
LANSING –The Michigan Department of Community Health lists several risk factors prevalent for prostate cancer. Diets high in fat, combined with a lack of exercise and routine screenings, as well as smoking, were key factors found in studies of patients.
MDCH medical experts provide the following statistics and advice about detecting and treating prostate cancer:
For black men, the smoking risk is especially critical. About 78 percent of lung cancer deaths and 30 percent of all cancer deaths are linked to smoking cigarettes and cigars.
One of the difficulties with diagnosing prostate cancer is detection. When a cancerous prostate tumor is small and located only within the prostate itself, it may not cause any symptoms. In fact, a man may live many years with prostate cancer and never know he has it.
The tumor may also be too small for a doctor to feel during a routine prostate exam, called a digital rectal examination (DRE). A doctor performs this exam by inserting a finger into the rectum to feel the size and shape of the prostate.
Potential warning signs men should be alert to include:
• Frequent urination, particularly at night.
• Weak or interrupted urine stream.
• Pain or burning upon urination or ejaculation.
• Presence of blood or pus in the urine or semen.
• Discomfort in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.
In the presence of such symptoms it is best to consult a doctor immediately.
To detect prostate cancer or determine the size and extent of the spread or stage of the disease, a doctor will perform tests that usually involve feeling the prostate, looking at internal parts of the body, measuring the level of certain substances in the blood, and examining samples of prostate cells.
There may also be specifically targeted tests, which could include a DRE, chest X-ray, bone scan and several types of ultrasound and X-ray tests. Blood and tissue sample tests are also useful in both diagnosis and follow-up after a formal diagnosis is made.
One such test is the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), which detects a blood substance present and increased in cases of prostate cancer and other prostate diseases.
Numerous treatment options are available, decided on a case-by-case basis. Determining the best treatment option available depends on knowing how the cancer is behaving and where it is located in the body. With prostate cancer that can be difficult because there are currently no tests that identify with absolute certainty the stage of the disease.
If started in an early stage, some treatments may cure the disease. They can extend life and help relieve symptoms. As a result of new and improved procedures, many men with prostate cancer are now living longer with less discomfort and fewer treatment-related side effects. Experts list hormone and radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery and “watchful waiting” as the current options available.
But even with current advances in available treatment and the advantage of early detection, prostate cancer remains the No. 1 killer cancer of black men, studies show, because screening campaigns have not reached minorities.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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