Prostate Cancer: Active Surveillance & Early Detection

Prostate Cancer

Author: WMURO Staff

September is known for a lot of things—like changing seasons and the trek back to school. In addition, it’s an important month for the urological system, since it’s also Urology Awareness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. 

Urology awareness month is organized by The Urology Foundation, and aims to raise awareness about urological disease as well as raise money to fund research and training. One of those diseases is prostate cancer—which can have a favorable prognosis if detected early. 

What is the Prostate?

The prostate is a small gland that’s about the size of a walnut and is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Since it supplies the seminal fluid that mixes with sperm from the testes, it is important to reproduction. 

How common is prostate cancer? 

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF), prostate cancer:

  • Is the leading type of non-skin cancer in the U.S.
  • Is the second leading cause of cancer worldwide.
  • Will be diagnosed in approximately 1 in 9 men at some point in their lives.
  • Is more common as men get older.

The last point is underscored by the fact that in men under 50 years of age, only about 1 in 350 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, that incidence increases the older a man gets, to:

  • 1 in 52 men ages 50 to 59 years old
  • 1 in 19 men ages 60 to 69 years old
  • 1 in 11 men 70 years old and older

In fact, the PCF says that nearly 60 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65.

In addition to advancing age, the American Cancer Society says that additional factors that may affect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer include: 

  • Race/ethnicity—since prostate cancer occurs more often in African-American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry than in men of other races. 
  • Geography—since prostate cancer is most common in North America, northwestern Europe, Australia, and on Caribbean islands. 
  • Family history—since prostate cancer seems to be more common in some families, and having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk. 

Why is early detection important?

Although the incidence of prostate cancer is high, approximately 95 percent of all prostate cancers are detected early, when the cancer is still confined to the prostate. Additionally, compared to most other types of cancers, the success rate for treating prostate cancer is very good. 

Generally, the earlier the cancer is detected and treated, the higher the chance of remaining free of disease. In fact, “low-risk” tumors are the most common type of prostate cancer, and they can be safely monitoring through active surveillance. 

What is Active Surveillance?

Active Surveillance—or observation—is used in some cases of low-risk disease. It may also be used among older patients for whom more aggressive treatment options may not be possible or necessary. Since some prostate cancers may never become life threatening, using Active Surveillance can be the best choice for care. 

If you or a loved one would like to be screened for prostate cancer, or would like to discuss this topic further, we at Western Michigan Urological Associates can help. Contact us today.