The potential for getting prostate cancer is a major concern for many older adults. In fact, prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men, after skin cancer. In a man's lifetime, the chances of being diagnosed with prostate cancer are about 1 in 7. In addition, the risk of prostate cancer increases with age. According to the American Cancer Society, 2/3 (66%) of prostate cancers occur in men over the age of 65. In addition, such factors as being African American and a family history of prostate cancer will increase risk. Though prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in American men, it is important to note that most men who have prostate cancer do not die of the disease.
Often, prostate cancer produces no symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they may include a weak flow of urine, frequent urination, trouble starting the flow of urine and blood in the urine or semen. You should contact your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Since problems with urination are very common in older men, more often than not, these symptoms do not indicate a person has prostate cancer.
There are many factors that influence the decision on how to treat prostate cancer. These may include the nature of the tumor itself (e.g., whether it is localized or has spread and what it looks like under a microscope), the general health of the patient, including how many more years he is expected to live and the personal preferences of each individual. The treatment options include:
• Watching or monitoring the tumor (also called watchful waiting or active surveillance)
• Radiation therapy
• Hormone therapy
• Vaccine treatment
• Specific treatments that target prostate cancer in the bones.
Because the decision about treatment (or even no treatment) is complex, it is often important to get a other opinions, especially from doctors who specialize in different forms of treatment (e.g., a surgeon, radiation therapist, medical oncologist (doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer.) It is also important to remember that each form of treatment is associated with its own set of benefits and risks.
Here are some questions to ask your doctor when deciding on a treatment:
1. What is the stage of my cancer (i.e., How advanced is it?)
2. What are the treatment options for my particular cancer and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each one?
3. Is active surveillance or watchful waiting an option for me?
4. What other doctors should I see?
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