Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, following lung cancer, with 250,000 new cases discovered each year. There are many areas of confusion about prostate cancer. Let me debunk a few of these myths.
Myth 1: Prostate cancer surgery will end your sex life and cause urine leakage.
Fact: Your surgeon may be able to spare the nerves that help trigger erections. Then you will probably be able to have an erection strong enough for sex again. But it may be a while. Recovery can take from 4 to 24 months, maybe longer. Younger men usually recover sooner.
If you still have trouble, ask your doctor about treatments for erectile dysfunction. Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra are common medications that can help. Your doctor will tell you if these are right for you.
Other prostate cancer treatments, such as radiation and hormone therapy, also can affect your sex life. Urine leakage may occur after surgery, but it’s usually temporary. Within a year, about 95% of men have as much bladder control as they did before surgery.
Myth 2: Only elderly men are at risk of prostate cancer.
Fact: Prostate cancer is rare for men under 40. If you are concerned, ask your doctor if you need to get tested earlier. Age isn’t the only factor. Others risk factors include:
Family history. If your father or brother had prostate cancer, your own risk doubles or triples. The more relatives you have with the disease, the greater your chances of getting it.
Race. If you are African-American, your risk of prostate cancer is higher than men of other races. Scientists do not yet know why.
You may want to discuss your risks with your doctor so you can decide together when you should be tested for prostate cancer with a screening PSA test and a digital rectal examination.
Myth 3: All prostate cancers must be treated.
Fact: You and your doctor may decide not to treat your prostate cancer. Reasons include:
Your cancer is at an early stage and is growing very slowly.
You are elderly or have other illnesses. Treatment for prostate cancer may not prolong your life and may complicate care for other health problems.
In such cases “active surveillance” may be an option to consider. This means that your doctor will regularly check you and order tests to make sure your cancer does not worsen. If your situation changes, you may decide to start treatment.
Myth 4: A high PSA score means you have prostate cancer.
Fact: Not necessarily. Your PSA could be high due to an enlarged prostate or inflammation in your prostate. The PSA score helps the doctor decide if you need more tests to check for prostate cancer. Also, your doctor is interested in your PSA score over time. Is it increasing, which could be a sign of a problem? Or, did it decrease after cancer treatment, which is great.
Myth 5: If you get prostate cancer, you will die of the disease.
Fact: You’re likely live to an old age or die of some other cause. That doesn’t mean checking for prostate cancer is not important. Most men with prostate cancer die with the cancer and not from it.
Bottom Line: I hope this article puts the perspective of prostate cancer back in its proper perspective. The diagnosis is common and help is available for most men with prostate cancer.