Plenty of men in America believe some significant untruths about prostate cancer. You can help to educate them with accurate information. Let’s take a closer look at the most common myths about this disease.
1. MYTH: “Young” Men Don’t Get Prostate Cancer
While it is true that prostate cancer risk and incidence increase as a man ages, men shouldn’t be deceived into believing that it is an “old man’s disease.” In fact, more than 70,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year are diagnosed earlier than 65 years old. I also caution against thinking that prostate cancer is solely a “man’s problem.” As is the case with breast cancer, plenty of men help their female partners detect the disease through physical examination. While this isn’t possible in the case of prostate cancer (a prostate tumor cannot be felt from outside the body), women can absolutely be strong advocates for the health of the men they love. If an important man in your life is complaining of symptoms or he hasn’t had a physical this past year, continuously encourage him to get checked out.
2. MYTH: You must have symptoms to have Prostate Cancer
Actually, prostate cancer is among the least symptomatic cancers known to the medical community. What that means is that most men who have it don’t know it. Many of the patients I’ve treated had their prostate tumors discovered during a routine examination for another condition or from a lab report of blood work at their annual physical. In addition, some of the most common symptoms associated with prostate cancer can be mistaken for something else. But if a man in your life is having pain or difficulty with urination, pain or difficulty with erection or ejaculation and stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs, these are signs that absolutely need to be evaluated by an urologist.
3. MYTH: All Prostate Cancers grow slowly
Like all types of cancer, some prostate cancers are slow growing and others are incredibly aggressive. The great news is that technology today allows urologic experts to quite accurately predict how aggressive a certain type of prostate cancer might be given its characteristics, the man’s medical history and various other factors. I know quite a bit of mainstream news has seemingly shown the medical community recommending against over-treatment of prostate cancer, but this doesn’t mean it should ever be ignored. Every man is different and the way cancer behaves in his body can also differ from patient to patient. Each patient should do what is right for him and the first step in that process is evaluation and lengthy discussion of options.
4. MYTH: If you don’t have a family history, you won’t get Prostate Cancer
One out of every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in his life. It is true that family history of the disease increases a man’s chances to 1 in 3, but the fact remains that men who have no family history of prostate cancer will continue to be diagnosed with it. The bottom line remains that prostate cancer is still the second most frequent cancer diagnosis in men (outside of skin cancer/melanoma) and the second leading cause of death (behind lung cancer). It should remain a priority for men and their health care providers, whether or not there is a family history.
5. MYTH: Prostate Cancer treatment always causes impotence
I saved this one for last, mostly because I have found that it is one of the reasons that men initially shy away from prostate cancer treatment once they have been diagnosed. But it simply isn’t true. Today’s state-of-the-art technology, especially when it comes to robotics, can offer tissue and nerve sparing benefits that don’t leave men permanently impotent after surgery. What’s more, this technology can be completely curative, meaning that it removes all of the cancer. The most important factor in the success of this technology is the surgeon who is using it. He or she must be highly knowledgeable about the technology and extremely skilled and experienced in using it. This gives men the best chances of successful treatment without long-lasting side effects.