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Prostate Cancer: Getting the Facts - Part 1


prostate-cancerProstate Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among men, and the second leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men. Although the rates of men diagnosed and who die from the disease have declined in recent years, African American men are still significantly more likely to be diagnosed with the disease compared to White, Latino and American Indian men.

Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five African American men will develop prostate cancer at some point during their lives? The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016, and of those, more than 29,000 will be diagnosed in African American men. Of those, nearly 4,500 African American men will die from the disease.

What is prostate cancer, and how is it detected?

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland, found only in men, that lies just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate gland produces seminal fluid, the fluid that carries and nourishes sperm. It usually stays about the same size, but can sometimes keep growing in older men. That can lead to a condition called Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which is a non-cancerous (and cannot cause cancer) condition in which the area of the prostate around the urethra grows and can put pressure on the urethra, causing problems with urination. There are effective treatments for this condition.

Prostate cancer forms when cells in the prostate continue to divide unchecked by the body’s normal regulatory mechanisms, producing a mass of abnormal cells called a tumor. These abnormal cells can travel to other parts of the body (called metastasis) and lead to death. Some prostate cancers can grow and spread quickly, while others grow slowly.

What are the risk factors for prostate cancer?

Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

Age - The chance of developing prostate cancer increases after age 50.

Family History - Having an immediate male relative, such as your father or brother, with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer himself.

Race - Prostate cancer occurs more often in African American men. AA men are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer compared to Non-Hispanic White men.

High Fat Diet - A diet with an abundance of red meat, high-fat foods along with few fruits and vegetables appears to create a slightly higher risk

What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?

Many men experience no symptoms initially; if they do occur, symptoms may include:

Urinating frequently at night;

Having blood in the urine;

Difficulty urinating; or

Experiencing sexual dysfunction.

These symptoms may also indicate other disorders, so it is important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing them.

Early Detection

Early detection leads to early treatment, which results in getting a head start on treating a potentially dangerous cancer. You should talk to your health care provider about your risk and the appropriate screening process for you. Even after a decision about testing has been made, the discussion about the pros and cons of testing should be repeated as new information about the benefits and risks of testing becomes available. Further discussions are also needed to take into account changes in the patient’s health, values and preferences.

Prostate cancer screening is two-pronged, involving (1) a digital rectal exam, or DRE, and (2) prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. According to the American Cancer Society, health care providers should offer both PSA and DRE tests annually to all men over age 50. For those at high risk (including African American men), testing may be recommended as early as age 40 – 45 years. Assuming no prostate cancer is found as a result of screening, the time between future screenings depends on the results of the PSA blood test: Men who have a PSA less than 2.5 ng/ml may only need to be retested every 2 years. Screening should be done yearly for men whose PSA level is 2.5 ng/ml or higher.

Next Week: Part 2 - Prostate cancer treatments.

Do you have questions, comments or need more information? Check out the American Cancer Society’s website at For more information about the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity visit our website at