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5 Common Misconceptions about Prostate Cancer

5 Common Misconceptions about Prostate Cancer and the Truth Behind Them

June 12, 2023 Posted in: Cancer Care  5 minute read time


Talking about your prostate, urinary symptoms or sexual dysfunction can be uncomfortable, but it’s essential to men’s health. The prostate is a tiny reproductive organ the size of a walnut located below a man’s urinary bladder. It’s responsible for making semen and tends to grow larger with age. 

An enlarged prostate is often called benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, a noncancerous condition that may affect sexual function. Its symptoms include slow urine flow, difficulty urinating, frequent or urgent need to urinate, dribbling after urination and waking up at night to urinate. Prostate cancer is another common form of prostate disease. It’s the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer and is often detected during a routine checkup. 

The more you know about the prostate, the better you can understand how to lower your risk of prostate cancer and other diseases. Read on for some common prostate myths and the truth behind them to help you make informed choices about your health:

Myth 1: Too much sex or having a vasectomy increases a man’s prostate cancer risk.

The reality: There is no indication that frequent sex or ejaculation causes prostate cancer. Another popular myth is that vasectomies increase the risk of prostate cancer. While some studies have suggested that men with vasectomies have a slightly increased risk for prostate cancer, other studies have not concluded this. Research on this possible link is still underway.

Myth 2: I don’t have any symptoms, so my prostate must be fine.

The reality: Men with prostate cancer may experience symptoms differently. Some men experience painful ejaculation or difficulty urinating or urinating too often. Others don’t have symptoms at all.

The bottom line is that you could have prostate issues without ever knowing it. In general, consider having your prostate checked after age 50. You may need a prostate test earlier if you’re African American or Black since this group has the highest rate of prostate cancer. Talk to your doctor about when and how often to check your prostate.

Myth 3: A high PSA level means I have prostate cancer.

The reality: Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein made by the prostate. When there is a problem with the prostate, more PSA can be released into the body. While a high level of PSA in your blood may indicate a problem with your prostate, it doesn’t automatically imply you have cancer. A larger or tender prostate, urinary tract infections or vigorous exercise, like riding a bike, can affect your PSA score.

So, don’t panic if your PSA level is elevated. Ask your doctor what could be the cause so you can take the proper steps to correct it. Although the PSA test is the current standard for prostate cancer detection, researchers are looking for new ways to detect cancer earlier and improve its treatment.

Myth 4: My PSA test was normal, so I don’t need a rectal exam.

The reality: Two types of tests look for possible signs of prostate cancer. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood and is the current standard for prostate cancer detection. In some cases, though, cancer is found in men with normal PSA levels, so your doctor may also recommend a digital rectal examination (DRE). It's a simple procedure in which a doctor examines the rectum and prostate gland. If your doctor feels a lump, changes in firmness or size, or anything else out of the ordinary, more tests may be required.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)'s recommendation focuses primarily on the PSA screening test, with or without the addition of a DRE or other screening tests. Talk to your doctor about which test may be right for you. If the test or tests show that you might have cancer, your doctor will refer you to a urologist for a prostate biopsy.

Myth 5: Only older men are affected.

The reality: While it's true that your risk for prostate cancer increases with age, all men are at risk for prostate cancer. In fact, 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer during their lifetime. A family history of prostate cancer is another considerable risk factor. Men are twice as likely to have prostate cancer when a brother or father has had the disease. The risk is much higher for men with several affected family members, especially if those relatives were diagnosed at a young age.

African-American men are also at an increased risk. They’re more likely to get prostate cancer than other men. They also get cancer at a younger age, tend to have more advanced disease when caught, and have a more severe type of prostate cancer than other men.

The takeaway.

Make an appointment with your CHI Saint Joseph Health doctor or find a provider to review screening options and when or how often to have your prostate checked. 

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