The all too forgotten prostate cancer screening

Too many men neglect discussing prostate cancer screening with their physicians and deprive themselves from the early detection of the most prolific type of cancer afflicting Canadian men today. In this country, it is estimated that close to 400 men are diagnosed every week and that over 80 men die from this disease. One in 7 men will suffer from prostate cancer in his lifetime, usually after the age of 60.

The prostate is a gland the size of a small stone located right under the bladder, at the base of the penis. It surrounds the urethra – the channel that carries the urine from the bladder to the end of the penis. The prostate’s main function is to produce the liquid part of sperm.

Prostate cancer usually evolves over many years before manifesting itself, through urinary problems for example. Prostate cancer is often treated successfully. Early detection allows decreased adverse effects of cancer treatment, notably on the sexual front. Early detection offers a better quality of life and even a better survival rate.

Symptoms such as a reduction in the size and intensity of the urinary jet, difficulty starting to urinate, frequent micturitions, the presence of blood in the urine or painful ejaculation should incite men to consult their physicians, even if these symptoms are most often associated with benign problems.

Rectal examination is the most commonly used method to detect prostate cancer. During the annual medical examination, the physician inserts a gloved finger into the rectum in order to feel the prostate. Most cancers develop in the peripheral zone, i.e. the part of the prostate closer to the rectum. It is then quite easy to detect any mass, irregularity or variation in the size or texture of the prostate.

The PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test is a blood analysis that also enables the detection of prostate cancer. The PSA is a protein only produced by the prostate and can be found in small quantities in the blood. Its blood concentration increases in cancer cases, but also in cases of minor troubles such as benign hyperplasia of the prostate or an infection.

Any man aged 50 and over should discuss early prostate cancer detection with his physician. Men who find themselves in the high-risk groups, notably those of African lineage and those whose family members were afflicted with prostate cancer, should bring up the subject with their physician without delay.

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