September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. The prostate gland is found only in men. It helps make semen (the fluid that carries sperm) and is located underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. The urethra is the tube through which men pass urine. The prostate resembles a walnut in shape and size and grows bigger as one advances in age.

Left untreated Prostate Cancer can be fatal. Diagnosed early and treated in time, Prostate Cancer responds well to treatment. However, Prostate Cancer remains second only to lung cancer as the main cause of cancer deaths among American men. 

National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month provides the perfect opportunity to educate men on a cancer that is very common among them but which, when diagnosed and treated early, is easily beaten.

Detecting Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer often remains undetected for many years and only becomes apparent when the prostate has grown large enough to cause partial obstruction of the urethra. This development increases the urge to urinate more often. This need to urinate more often will be accompanied by a feeling of the bladder not emptying completely, even after immediately after passing urine. Straining while urinating is also a symptom of prostate cancer. Holding back urine and having a weak and interrupted flow are also signs of prostate cancer. Pain while passing urine, blood in the urine or in the semen ejaculated and a noticeable decrease in the amount of fluid ejaculated may be signs of prostate cancer. A  painful ejaculation is another possible sign of prostate cancer.

Pain and stiffness in the hips and thighs as well as the pelvis and lower back are also possible indications of prostate cancer.

It is important to emphasise that having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean one has prostate cancer. Only a health professional can determine this after performing the requisite tests.

The presence of Prostate Cancer may be detected in several ways. A physical examination of the prostate (known as a digital rectal examination or DRE) is perhaps the most widely known. Blood tests and a biopsy are also options open to the doctor.

Treatment options for prostate cancer carry with them the risk of erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence. This is a major reason as to why men delay treatment unless there is a risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. This process of the cancer spreading beyond its primary source is known as metastasising.

National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month will see the advocating (as well as active fundraising) for further research into the disease. Education on risk factors and symptoms to look out for will also feature during this month. Demystifying and making prostate cancer screenings more readily available will also be important issues to be highlighted in September.

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