Prostate Cancer Prevention and Screening

DrRippentopJonathan Rippentrop, MD, is a board-certified urologist with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. He provides diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, including robotic and traditional prostate surgery  

Q: What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

A: All men are potentially at risk. But there are factors that increase risk:

  • Family history. If you have a direct male ancestor with the disease, your risk is doubled. • Race. African Americans are at double the risk.
  • Age. Your risk goes up as you grow older.
  • Diet. Some studies indicate a diet high in saturated fats may increase your risk. When beating cancer, knowing is half the battle.
Q: How do you screen for prostate cancer?

A: Screening consists of a blood test and rectal exam. The blood test looks for a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) that can indicate the presence of cancer. Your family doctor may do the exam and order a PSA test.

Q: Who should get screened and when?

A: The American Urological Association recommends all men get screened for prostate cancer starting at age 40. This is especially true if you are African American or if you have a family history of prostate cancer. For most men, it’s a good idea to get screened once a year. However, if your PSA number is very low and you have no other risk factors, your doctor may recommend testing less frequently. Screening is the only way to detect it early on, when treatment is most effective.

Q: How do you treat prostate cancer?

A: There are several options for treatment. Because it tends to be a slow-growing cancer, your doctor may suggest “active surveillance,” or monitoring the cancer over time. Other options are a radiation-based approach and/or surgical removal. Each patient’s cancer journey is unique, so it’s important to talk to your doctor and decide which option is best for you.

Q: Have there been any new treatments in the last few years?

A: When it comes to surgery, minimally invasive robotic surgery is now the “gold standard” for prostate removal. It offers the benefits of less pain, fewer complications and faster recovery. Radiation therapy also continues to see advances, with equipment offering greater accuracy for fewer side effects. Another option is brachytherapy, which uses radioactive “seeds.”

Q: What follow-up care do prostate cancer survivors need?

A: Your doctor will want to follow up with you on a regular basis for ten years. Your doctor will use a PSA test to monitor the effectiveness of treatment and, if there is a recurrence, catch it quickly.

Q: I have an enlarged prostate. Does that mean I am at greater risk for cancer?

A: As men age, they often develop an enlarged prostate—a condition called benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Having an enlarged prostate does not affect your risk of developing prostate cancer.

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