Frequently Asked Questions about Prostate Cancer
Is prostate cancer the same for every man?
No, prostate cancer can vary significantly from man to man, with different symptoms, behaviors and patterns of progression. Some cancers are aggressive, which means they grow quickly, can spread outside the prostate and need treatment. Others are what’s called indolent, meaning they grow very slowly, don’t spread to other parts of the body and don’t currently — and may never — pose any risk to a man’s health.
What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?
Age, race and a family history are the primary risk factors. Nearly two-thirds of cases are found in men over the age of 65. The rate of prostate cancer is about 60 percent higher in African-American men than the rest of the population. Having a close relative — father, brother or grandfather with the disease — increases a man’s risk as well.
What are some of the symptoms of prostate cancer?
Most men experience very few symptoms, especially in the early stages of prostate cancer. That’s why getting screening tests like the PSA and digital rectal exam (DRE), even if you don’t have symptoms, is so important. However, some patients do have one or more of these symptoms:
• A need to urinate often, especially at night
• Weak or interrupted urine flow
• Trouble starting or stopping urine flow
• Trouble emptying the bladder
• Pain or burning when urinating
• Blood in the urine or semen
• Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs
• Painful ejaculation or loss of the ability to have an erection
These symptoms may not mean cancer. They could be caused by non-cancerous conditions such as infectionor enlargement of the prostate gland. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis.
What is a PSA test?
The PSA is a blood test that measures a man’s level of prostate-specific antigen, which tends to rise with prostate cancer. A PSA test is frequently accompanied by a digital rectal exam (DRE) in which the doctor inserts a finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities on the prostate surface. The PSA test is often the starting place for prostate cancer screening. However, it’s important to keep in mind that an elevated PSA doesn’t necessarily mean prostate cancer; it can also be caused by non-cancerous conditions, inflammation or infection. Just as important, a low PSA doesn’t guarantee that a man doesn’t have prostate cancer. Because there is some debate on this subject, an ongoing discussion with a primary care doctor or specialist at the Prostate Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Center helps to evaluate what approach is best for each person.
How is prostate cancer diagnosed?
After a PSA test identifies men who may need further diagnostics, the doctors at the Prostate Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Center — all of whom have extensive experience using highly sophisticated diagnostic tools — perform additional tests. These include additional blood tests, urine tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound imaging, biopsies, and DNA and other genetic tests.
How is prostate cancer treated?
There are many treatment options depending on the type, location and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s age and general health. They include active surveillance of cancers that may never need intervention, different types of surgery, including minimally invasive procedures, radiation and chemotherapy, and hormone treatments. All these treatments may be given alone or in combination.
Who should be evaluated for prostate cancer?
The Prostate Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Center was established to assess the risk for the disease and offer a comprehensive evaluation to men with:
• Test results that show newly elevated PSA levels
• An abnormal finding from a digital rectal exam
• A family history of prostate cancer
• A precancerous condition in the prostate
• Elevated PSA levels and biopsies that are negative for cancer
• Positive biopsies that need further diagnostic tests to evaluate the aggressiveness of the disease
• Possible recurrence of prostate cancer after treatments
• Cancer that wasn’t eliminated after surgery or radiation therapy
• Prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic cancer)
• Complications of prostate cancer treatment
What distinguishes Stony Brook’s approach?
In addition to access to state-of-the-art technology and procedures in diagnosing and treating prostate cancer, Stony Brook University Cancer Center uses a multidisciplinary approach to patient care. Beyond a primary team that may include a surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist and nurse navigator, patients have access to additional healthcare staff such as social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists and patient advocates. At monthly meetings, newly diagnosed cases are discussed by these experts along with their colleagues in the Departments of Urology, Pathology and Radiology to ensure that patients receive the most comprehensive care possible.
An individual can call to make an appointment or physicians can refer their patient to the Prostate Cancer Diagnostic and Treatment Center.
Stony Brook Cancer Center
3 Edmund D. Pellegrino Road • Stony Brook
Wednesdays • 9 to 4 pm