Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. “One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer,” explained CU Medicine Urologist, Dr. Austin DeRosa.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are more than 248,500 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, resulting in just over 34,000 deaths. In Colorado, there are around 3,900 new cases of prostate cancer each year.
While it’s a serious disease, most men diagnosed with it survive. “It is essentially a curable disease if found early enough,” added DeRosa.
Prostate Cancer Risk Factors
While there are several things that can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer it can happen to any male. “Prostate cancer can occur spontaneously, so it is very important for men to be screened,” said DeRosa.
A screening includes a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a digital rectal exam. Men should start screening around age 55 if they are average risk. Those that have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer should start screening sooner, when they’re between 40-54 years old.
What increases the risk of prostate cancer?
Age: Risk increases with age. The majority of prostate cancer diagnoses occur in men over 50 years old with the average age of diagnosis at about 66. “Usually the sweet spot for prostate cancer is 55-69,” added DeRosa.
Race and ethnicity: For reasons not yet understood, Black men are at about two times the risk of developing prostate cancer than men of other races and ethnicities.
Family history: Prostate cancer that runs in families makes up about 20% of all diagnoses. Having a father or brother with the disease more than doubles a man’s risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the risk is even higher for men with several affected relatives.
Several inherited gene mutations can also increase prostate cancer risk. These include hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome, which is associated with mutations to the BRCA1 and/or BRCA2 genes, and Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC.
Prostate Cancer Treatment
Prostate cancer prognosis depends on the type of cancer and the stage at which it is diagnosed. It is usually curable when detected and treated early. Not everyone with an elevated PSA will have prostate cancer or cancer that needs treatment.
DeRosa explained that someone with “low risk” prostate cancer will just be monitored and followed but not actively treated. “We’ve shown that overtreatment of low risk cancer does not move the needle in regards to life expectancy,” he said.
For someone with “intermediate or high risk” prostate cancer the treatment plan can vary but typically includes radiation and surgery, “With intermediate or high risk disease this is where we as urologists can really impact a patients overall survival from cancer,” DeRosa added.
If surgery is needed to treat prostate cancer in a patient, CU Medicine Urology – South Denver has the ability to use minimally invasive surgical techniques. “We are able to do these surgeries using the robotic platform which provides a very precise and much more refined approach than open surgery. Recovery takes less time, blood loss is less, and reconstructive efforts are much improved in terms of sparing the nerves that supply erections and help with incontinence after prostate surgery,” explained DeRosa.