It’s important for men to be familiar with the warning signs of prostate cancer and get screened because it’s the second-leading cause of cancer death in men, an expert says.

While there will be more than 288,000 diagnoses and nearly 35,000 deaths this year, there are also 3.5 million American men who have the disease and are still alive.

Black men have the highest death rate for prostate cancer of any racial or ethnic group. They are twice as likely to die from it as white men are, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“Despite the alarming statistics concerning the disease, there are opportunities for prevention, early detection and treatment to improve survival and survivorship, and to reduce the burden this cancer has across the U.S. and the globe,” said prostate cancer researcher Dr. Lorelei Mucci. She’s director of strategic research partnerships at the ACS.

Warning signs of prostate cancer can include urinary problems, such as difficulty starting urination or urinating frequently. It can also include pain during ejaculation. The prostate is close to both the bladder and the urethra.

These symptoms aren’t exclusive to prostate cancer, so it’s important to see a doctor to narrow down the cause.

Cancer that has grown beyond the prostate may cause hip or back pain.

“For most people, however, there are no signs or symptoms indicating prostate cancer and the cancer is diagnosed with a biopsy following an abnormal blood test,” said Mucci, who leads an ACS initiative called IMPACT, or “Improving Mortality Toward Prostate Cancer Together.”

Anyone with a prostate can get prostate cancer. Black men are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Getting older also increases risk.

Someone with a close male relative who has had prostate cancer or close female relative has had breast cancer may have an inherited genetic risk for the disease.

Maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking and being physically active can help to offset higher risks.

Prostate cancer treatment includes surgery known as radical prostatectomy (prostate removal) and certain forms of radiation when the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the prostate.

Men whose risk of the cancer spreading is low may be put on active surveillance, in which a patient is closely monitored for signs of cancer progression.

With more aggressive disease, additional therapies include those that target hormonal pathways, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiopharmaceutical therapies.

“In fact, this is an exciting time in prostate cancer, with substantial progress in the discovery and approval of new therapies over the past 5 to 10 years, as well as several other therapies being developed,” Mucci said in an ACS news release.

Screening is important and the primary test involves testing a blood sample for the level of a marker called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Higher levels of PSA in the blood can mean prostate cancer, but it can also suggest an enlarged prostate.

Regular PSA screening can reduce prostate cancer deaths.

“An area of active research now is aiming to do more effective screening approaches, targeting the men who are at the highest risk of prostate cancer and then also safely letting people know they can screen less regularly,” Mucci said.

Men at average risk for prostate cancer should discuss the benefits and limitations of screening with their health care provider at age 50, the ACS recommends.

More information

Here’s more on prostate cancer.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Aug. 30, 2023