Prostate cancer doesn’t have symptoms in the early stages. That’s why screening is so important — it can identify cancer when treatment can be most successful.
Generally, prostate cancer progresses very slowly. Even if you’re diagnosed with the disease, it doesn’t mean you’ll need treatment. In some instances, your doctor may monitor you for signs of disease progression, known as active surveillance. This means you’ll have more frequent screening exams and checkups.
But, if you’re among men who have aggressive prostate cancer that needs treatment, early diagnosis can save your life.
When to Get Screened
If you’re 55 or older, talk to your doctor about screening — particularly if you’re African-American or you have a father, brother or son who’s had prostate cancer, which increases your risk. Your doctor will consider your personal and family history to determine what screening is appropriate for you.
An Evolution in Screening
Over the past several years, there’s been an evolution in how doctors look for prostate cancer. In addition to a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, genetic testing can help doctors determine who should have biopsies. Tests to find abnormal prostate cancer genes can help identify men at high risk who may benefit from earlier or more frequent screening.
And, genetic studies and imaging technology advances allow doctors to detect cancer that needs treatment (known as clinically significant) with greater accuracy.
Advanced Screening Accuracy
In the San Francisco Bay Area, doctors at El Camino Hospital use Artemis™ 3D Imaging and Navigation — which combines MRI and ultrasound imaging — to identify areas of the prostate that may be cancerous. This system, used at El Camino Hospital since 2014, offers greater accuracy in identifying cancer that requires treatment, as opposed to lesions (abnormalities) that are low risk and don’t need biopsy. This reduces the number of unnecessary biopsies.
- First, doctors perform a specialized MRI exam of the prostate. Artemis fuses MRI and ultrasound images to create a 3-D model of the prostate for close examination.
- If doctors find a suspicious lesion that needs a biopsy, the machine’s real-time ultrasound imaging capability allows them to manipulate the needle to biopsy specific areas of the prostate.
The traditional biopsy method uses ultrasound to guide a needle into the prostate to take samples from several areas, but this method can be inaccurate. The biopsies could miss the cancer entirely or only take a sample of an edge of the cancer, which doesn't determine the extent of disease. Artemis allows doctors to target biopsies with greater precision, which provides more accurate information for diagnosis and care planning.
In addition, Artemis records exactly where the biopsy was taken, so doctors have a superimposed image that allows them to take subsequent biopsies from the same place. Doctors use Artemis for both diagnosis and active surveillance.
Take Charge of Your Health
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from prostate cancer:
- Talk to your doctor about your risk and what screening is right for you — and follow those recommendations.
- Lead a healthy lifestyle. Don’t smoke, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and follow a cancer-healthy diet.
- Recognize symptoms. Prostate cancer doesn’t usually cause symptoms in the early stages. However, talk to your doctor if you notice changes in urination (more frequency or urgency, straining, weaker or intermittent flow) or have pain with ejaculation. Most often, these symptoms are caused by issues other than cancer, but it’s important to notify your doctor and get checked.
Prostate problems are a natural part of aging for most men. If you’re 55 or older, it’s important to have regular checkups. If you’re due for a checkup, schedule an appointment today.
El Camino Hospital offers comprehensive services for prostate health, including the latest minimally invasive and noninvasive treatments for prostate cancer.
1. National Cancer Institute