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Health Center Today, September 9, 2010

Prostate Cancer - Know the Facts About This Commonly Diagnosed Disease

This story first appeared in the September issue of House Call.

One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within his lifetime. Fortunately, with today’s medical advances, the survival rate for prostate cancer is well over 90 percent.

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and the second leading cancer-related cause of death in men, after lung cancer. Unlike lung cancer, the natural history of prostate cancer is quite variable. Some men have very slow growing tumors that do not require any treatment, while others harbor more aggressive disease that requires intervention with either surgery or radiation.

Risk Factors

Aging is a common risk factor for prostate cancer; along with having a father, brother or son who has had it; or being African-American. If you are over age 50 or if you have one or more of these risk factors, you should speak to your doctor about screening. Routine prostate cancer screening, however, is controversial says Dr. Peter Albertsen, an internationally recognized urologist and researcher at the UConn Health Center. He encourages men to talk to their doctor about their individual prostate cancer risk factors and whether screening is right for them.


Common screenings include digital rectal exams and prostate specific antigen tests (PSA), Albertsen cautions patients that PSA testing can lead to overdiagnosis. “Prostate cancer is only one of many potential causes of an elevated PSA. Virtually anything that irritates the prostate can cause the PSA to rise, at least temporarily. A test resulting in an elevated PSA should be repeated,” says Albertsen. And he stresses the importance of speaking with an expert before agreeing to a prostate biopsy.


If the diagnosis is prostate cancer, treatment options include surgery, radiation, hormone therapy and watchful waiting. Since many prostate cancers grow slowly, the best treatment option for older men with low-grade prostate cancer might be to hold off on surgery or radiation and watch for any progression of the disease. Men with high grade cancers should consider more aggressive treatment. “A person with a new diagnosis of prostate cancer should ask his doctor precisely what would happen if his tumor were left untreated,” says Albertsen, who has been researching the disease for the past 25 years and has authored many articles on watchful waiting and the management of prostate cancer. Only by assessing the risk posed by disease can doctors and patients determine the most appropriate treatment strategy.

For more resources and information on prostate cancer care, visit or call 800-535-6232.