Prostate cancer is among the most common type of cancer in American men other than skin cancer; in fact, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. These are huge numbers that will make any man sit up and take notice. And it’s difficult to ignore when the statistics show that up until just a few years ago, prostate cancer deaths were continuing to rise. However, the good news is that these rates are now steadily on the decline which has much to do with how quickly we are now able to detect and diagnose prostate cancer.
The advancements in cancer detection technology has allowed us to quickly diagnose a disease that may have once taken more time to identify. Now lives are being extended and saved entirely because of the ability to detect and manage it fast and appropriately.
The first marker in detecting prostate cancer is measuring the prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA is an enzyme that always exists in the prostate. In some cases, the PSA enzyme can leak into the blood due to prostate enlargement, infection, or development of a malignancy. In many cases, elevated levels of PSA found in the blood are not due to cancer but this can be the first identifying factor in determining if further testing is needed for prostate cancer.
Doctors have determined in recent years that a baseline measurement of PSA is an important component to helping identify evidence of cancer. When a man’s PSA increases from one year to the next, this is an important consideration in determining if further testing is required.
The PSA blood test is only one part of initial testing. A doctor will generally also want to perform a digital rectal examination during which physical changes can be detected.
When further testing is indicated, a biopsy may be performed to collect tissue samples for testing.
With all the advancements that we have made, death from prostate cancer has dropped by 33% as cure rates have increased. We are steadily making strides in identifying and effectively treating prostate cancer.