Prostate cancer happens when abnormal cells grow and develop quicker than normal in your prostate. That’s the walnut-shaped gland that makes fluid to nourish and transport sperm.
It’s one of the most common types of cancer. Some forms of this cancer are mild and may need minimal treatment, while others are more aggressive.
Here’s what people with prostate cancer want you to know.
Prostate cancer can be asymptomatic.
Like some other forms of cancer, prostate cancer might not cause any symptoms in its early stages.
Jefferey Presley, 59, got his prostate cancer diagnosis in January 2021. Other than an enlarged prostate and the fact that he was peeing a bit more than normal, Presley didn’t notice any other warning signs. His doctor discovered his cancer through routine bloodwork.
Advanced stages of prostate cancer might include:
Which symptoms you have may vary, or you might have no symptoms at all.
Schedule regular checkup appointments.
Since prostate cancer is hard to find early on, it’s important that you keep up with your doctor’s appointments and stay in touch with your team. They can tell if testing you for changes in your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level or using a digital rectal exam (DRE) can help check for any issues.
If your doctor finds prostate cancer in a beginning stage, it’s a lot easier to treat.
“Early detection, in my mind, is key. Don’t wait,” Presley says. “Whether you’re 20 or 40, go to the doctor. It’s just a matter of taking care of yourself.”
Albert Bo Smith, 67, found out he had prostate cancer more than 7 years ago. But if it weren’t for the fact that Smith regularly visits his doctor, his doctors may not have found his cancer.
“It’s really important, as we get older, to have regular checkups with the doctors,” he says. “Thankfully, I have done that.”
If your doctor notices a change, they might suggest further testing, like a biopsy. That’s when your doctor will remove a piece of your tissue to look at it closer in a lab.
Do your own research.
If your doctor discovers that you have prostate cancer, don’t panic. There are many forms of treatment. Smith suggests that you do your own research on prostate cancer therapies.
“When you get prostate cancer, it’s really important to research the different treatments, Smith says. “It used to be years back we didn’t have as many options for treatment as we do now.”
Considering your quality of life before treatment is crucial. Some types of treatment may fit your needs better than others. For example, brachytherapy, which delivers radiation directly to the prostate with much lower doses in surrounding areas, may be safer than and just as effective as traditional radiation therapy.
Get a second opinion.
After you find out that you have prostate cancer, you might find it helpful to get a second opinion from another doctor. After doing that himself, Smith felt like he was more in control of his cancer treatment.
“That [second] doctor referred me to someone who could go over all the different possibilities. Thankfully, I had choices. I had options,” he says.
Ray Posey, 69, urges people to be their own advocates and push for the care they deserve. He finds that getting a second opinion can help you to find answers that could be more useful to you.
Take care of you.
With prostate cancer, you may feel depressed, worried, or anxious. But there are many ways you can maintain a good quality of life.
“The first big message I would say is that there’s help out there,” Smith says.
Smith says make use of counseling services and support groups, either in-person or online. Ken Susalla, 75, has had both throat and prostate cancer. He now works as a volunteer for others who are navigating a cancer diagnosis. He’s a part of a one-on-one support group who matches recently diagnosed people with others who have been through cancer.
“If I can help anybody get through this disease, I will,” Susalla says.
Relaxation classes like yoga can help a lot, too. Studies also suggest that getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet can help make you feel better.
Presley finds that he’s able to keep his mental health in check by focusing on the positives. Through his faith and favorite hobbies, Presley can keep himself from dwelling on unwanted thoughts.
Susalla says while it’s important to plan for your future treatment and care, it helps to focus on the things you can control. Don’t get caught up in the past, and do your best to not worry about the future.
You can live with prostate cancer.
Some people may live with this prostate cancer for many years, or it may go away and come back. Since most people get their diagnosis while their cancer is in a lower stage, many live long lives with prostate cancer.
Susalla finds it helpful to tell others that, in most cases, living with prostate cancer is just like living with any other medical condition. If you take care of your health, go to your appointments, and have treatment, you’re likely to have a good quality of life for many years.
Posey says that dealing with a long-term condition can sometimes be like an “emotional rollercoaster.” At some points, you may worry about your cancer coming back, but at other moments, you may be celebrating good test results.
You can be cured.
If your cancer stays in your prostate (your doctor may call it “localized), the survival rate is nearly 100%. The overwhelming majority of men get cured of their cancer. It’s yet another reason that early detection and treatment are so important.