Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis among men, but many men still lack an understanding of many crucial aspects of the disease.
UCLA Urology vice chair Dr. Christopher Saigal has cared for countless patients with prostate cancer — through their diagnosis, treatment decisions, and follow-up.
He shares three of the most important aspects of the disease that all men should know.
The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test doesn’t confirm whether or not you have cancer.
Saigal: “PSA, itself, is a harmless protein made by the prostate gland. But in men with prostate cancer, it is overproduced, so you have more of it in your blood.
That’s why the PSA test can be a helpful component in screening.
However, PSA is made in higher quantities in men who have larger prostate glands, or who have inflammation of the gland, so not all PSA elevations mean a man has prostate cancer.”
Treatments can have a variety of side effects beyond sexual function.
Saigal: “When it comes to the side effects of treating prostate cancer, the spotlight falls on sexual function. But other side effects should factor into treatment decisions, too.
Some men who receive a prostatectomy to treat prostate cancer may experience urinary incontinence (leakage). Men having radiation therapy can have issues with bowel health.
Some men who choose active surveillance to monitor their prostate cancer develop anxiety from the process, even though active surveillance is a very useful option for many men.
That’s why it’s important to discuss your personal values and your goals with your doctor and come up with a plan that works for you.”
After diagnosis, you generally have time to make a decision.
Saigal: “In most cases, a man has time to figure out which treatment is best in his case. Waiting a few months to decide what treatment is best for you in general does not affect treatment cure rates.
When it comes to prostate cancer, research has shown that a significant proportion of patients come to regret their treatment decision. Take the time you need to pick the treatment that’s right for you.”.