Blue for Boys Takes on New Meaning in September. Men: Screen for Prostate Health This Month

Identified by blue ribbons, National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month focuses attention on the disease this month and ways for men to safeguard their health.

According to the American Cancer Society, aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, affecting as many as one in every nine men.

The disease begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control. Men ages 50 and older are advised to undergo annual screenings, which typically consist of a blood test to measure prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. Now is the perfect time to schedule a screening with your doctor or healthcare provider.

Know the Risks

Incidence rates for prostate cancer in Louisiana rank among the highest in the country.

Healthcare providers urge men to not delay annual screenings and to know their risks.

  • Age is the biggest risk factor, particularly for men over 50.
  • Family history and genetics also play roles. Several inherited gene mutations such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are linked to an increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers in some families.
  • Ethnicity can increase risk, with African-American men and Caribbean men of African descent having the highest rates of the disease.
  • Diet seems to have an impact. Obese males tend to have higher risk for more aggressive forms of the cancer.

Anyone at high risk should talk with their doctor about medications or other preventive treatments. Several drugs can control prostate enlargement. According to American Cancer Society guidelines, men can reduce risks by:

  • Eating at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Following a low-fat diet with limited red meat and dairy products
  • Choosing foods rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Limiting caffeine and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Exercising frequently
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Watch for Symptoms

As men age, their prostates can become enlarged and press on the bladder or urethra. They should not overlook an enlarged prostate as there are often no early symptoms of cancer. In more advanced stages, symptoms can include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urination
  • Weak or interrupted urinary stream
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Deep pain in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs

Get Screened Regularly

When detected early, the five-year survival rate nears 100 percent if the disease is confined to the prostate or nearby tissues (stages I, II or III). If it spreads to lymph nodes or distant organs such as the lungs or bone (stage IV), the rate drops to 29 percent.

The American Cancer Society advises men to begin screening tests at:

  • Ages 40–49 for men at high risk including anyone with a father, brother or son diagnosed before age 65
  • At age 45, African Americans should discuss screening with their doctors
  • Age 50+ for average-risk men

Screenings typically consist of a blood test to measure PSA levels. A PSA level under 4 is considered normal, while a reading above 10 suggests higher risk of several conditions including cancer. Anything between 4 and 10 is considered borderline.

Choosing Treatment Options

Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy or radiation. Side effects can include impotence, urinary impairment and erectile dysfunction. However, advanced surgical techniques help minimize damage to nearby nerves.

When it comes to prostate cancer, like with most cancers, screening and early detection help to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. We encourage you to speak with your healthcare provider sooner rather than later. Why not make an appointment now? If you need a doctor, use our Find a Doctor directory on our website: or call Thibodaux Regional Cancer Institute at 985.493.4008.