September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. In the U.S., prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. While the majority of cases are manageable for years, the aggressive form cause approximately 30,000 deaths each year. Early detection is key.
“Prostate cancer screening is vital to making an informed decision about your care,” says board-certified urologist, G. Michael Ortiz, MD, of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology. “Typically, prostate cancer is nonaggressive, which is why we often recommend active surveillance rather than treatment. This doesn’t mean a screening is unnecessary. First you have to know if you have prostate cancer. If you do, you need to know whether it is aggressive. If you have any urinary symptoms, don’t panic, but don’t delay. Talk with your primary care provider to see if you need further evaluation.”
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, symptoms and signs of prostate cancer may include:
- Frequent urination,
- Weak or interrupted urine flow or the need to strain to empty the bladder,
- The urge to urinate frequently at night,
- Blood in the urine,
- Blood in the seminal fluid,
- New onset of erectile dysfunction,
- Pain or burning during urination, which is much less common, and
- Discomfort or pain when sitting, caused by an enlarged prostate.
Keep in mind, these symptoms are also similar to noncancerous conditions of the prostate, as well as medical conditions that are unrelated to cancer. Screening will help your urologist determine the best course of action in addressing these symptoms.
Brandon Otto, MD, also a board-certified urologist with Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology, adds that patients with prostate cancer are often asymptomatic, another reason why screening is so important.
“The main risk factors are age, family history, and race,” Dr. Otto says. “If African American, you have a higher risk of both getting the disease and a more aggressive form. None of these factors mean you will have prostate cancer, and conversely, you can still have prostate cancer even if you don’t fall in a high risk category. The best way to know for sure is to begin with a screening.”
The Urology Care Foundation provides a free, online prostate cancer screening assessment tool. It asks about risk factors, age and health and talks about the benefits and risks of screening. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about whether screening is appropriate for you.
“If you’re screening comes back positive, don’t be afraid,” says Dr. Ortiz, who specializes in benign disease of the prostate as well as a new minimally invasive procedure to treat an enlarged prostate called Urolift. “It’s a common and manageable disease, especially if caught in the early stages. The good news is that there have been significant leaps forward in the last decade for prostate cancer treatment.”
According to Dr. Ortiz, prostate cancer patients now have access to:
- Advances in robotic surgery that have made the removal of prostate much safer and well tolerated,
- Radiation therapy, which has become more accurate, with fewer side effects, and
- New drugs that are available to help prolong life, even in advanced stages.
Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology offers prostate cancer screening using digital rectal examination and the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Patients also have access to a powerful tool in the early detection of prostate cancer—a 3 Tesla (3T) MRI that makes it easier to find and biopsy small cancers.
For patients who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, the urology team offers advanced treatment options, including robotic surgery using the da Vinci Surgical System, to remove the prostate. As members of the multidisciplinary Saratoga Hospital Medical Group, the team works closely with Saratoga Hospital’s radiation oncology and medical oncology teams to coordinate your care.
Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology also provides advanced diagnostic and treatment services for men and women with a variety of urological conditions, including but not limited to prostate-related concerns, kidney stones, incontinence, and urinary tract infections. Urology services are offered in two locations: Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology and Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Urology at Malta. To make an appointment, call 518-583-0111.