Black Boomer men are at greater risk of developing and dying from prostate cancer than Caucasian, Asian or Latino men. Health professionals are unsure of the reasons but suggest a combination of factors such as genetics, lifestyles, nutrition and access to medical care may be responsible.
The prostate gland lies under the bladder in the male. It is small like a walnut and produces a fluid that helps to nourish and carry the sperm. The urethra runs on top of the prostate gland. This tube carries urine and semen to the penis. Any enlargement of the gland disrupts the flow of urine and may be the first sign of a problem. Enlargement of the gland may begin from the mid-forties but is more common in the fifties.
In most men, a benign or simple enlargement occurs as part of the aging process. Cancer in any part of the body occurs when normal body cells begin to develop abnormally. Sometimes cells in the prostate gland begin to grow abnormally. Prostate cancer may grow slowly or aggressively.
Early detection is important. Prostate cancer may spread (metastasize) to the bone, spinal cord or other tissues in the body.
Signs and Symptoms
Having difficulty with urination may be the early warning signs. The man may experience:
- Pain, straining or burning when urinating
- Going to the bathroom frequently at night
- Unable to start or stop peeing
- Incontinence of urine (cannot hold urine)
- Reduced urine stream (no force)
- Dribbling of urine (wetting after passing urine)
- Bloody urine (hematuria)
Advanced symptoms include:
- Erection problems
- Blood in the semen
- Ejaculation pain
- Edema of the legs
- Swelling in legs or groin area
- Loss of feeling in hips and legs
- Bone pain or fractures
Some risk factors for this cancer are age – men sixty-five and over, race- higher in black men – family history and obesity. Men can reduce these factors by having early screening. Black men should begin screening in their mid-forties or earlier if they are experiencing any symptoms.
Screening tests for prostate cancer include routine physical exam, a rectal exam and a blood test. Discussing any urinary problems that you are having with your doctor is important. Some men are reluctant to talk about their genital organs. Remember that early detection is the key.
Many black men are very reluctant to have a rectal examination, but this procedure is not difficult or painful. The doctor examines the prostate gland checking for any abnormalities. Some men are embarrassed by this process while others may feel violated.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a blood test. Accepted levels range between 0-4. However in younger men levels of 2.5-3 may be of concern. Higher levels may indicate problems such as infection or cancer.
Other tests such as a Transrectal ultrasound – a probe is placed into the rectum and a prostate biopsy-collecting a tissue sample may also be done.
Prostate cancer is treatable. Early diagnosis is critical. September is Prostate Cancer awareness month. Black Boomer men are encouraged to visit their health-care provider for prostate cancer screening.
SEPTEMBER IS PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Harriette Barker, Ph.D, RN, CHC