Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men, second only to skin cancers — and unfortunately, myths about it are common too. Several are dangerous enough to stop men from seeking the care they need.
To sort fact from fiction, we checked in with Ryan P. Dorin, MD, chief of urology at The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Myth 1: Most men don’t survive prostate cancer.
Fact: Actually, prostate cancer is one of the most curable cancers.
Nine out of 10 patients who are diagnosed with it have at least a five-year survival rate, the milestone at which the chance of a later recurrence drops.
Plus, they often have numerous treatment options, from minimally invasive surgery to precision drugs called theranostics.
“Here at Hartford HealthCare, we’re at the forefront of many interventions to treat prostate cancer,” says Dr. Dorin. “Every day, more and more patients are beating this disease.”
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Myth 2: So even if I have prostate cancer, I don’t need to worry about it.
Fact: You need expert care.
There are many different types of prostate cancer, and how dangerous each is depends on multiple characteristics. While some types are slow-spreading, others are aggressive and need immediate intervention.
“A urologic cancer specialist and the proper tests can tell you which type of prostate cancer you have,” says Dr. Dorin. “We can also help you decide what kind of treatment is best for you.”
Myth 3: Only older men get this disease.
Fact: Prostate cancer isn’t uncommon in men as young as 40.
Yes, the disease becomes much more common as men age. But more than a third of cases occur in men under the age of 65.
Because of this, “Many men start regular screenings at age 50,” says Dr. Dorin. “If you have risk factors — like a family history of prostate cancer, or if you’re African-American — your doctor may recommend you start even earlier.”
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Myth 4: I would be able to tell if I had it.
Fact: The symptoms of prostate cancer are easy to miss.
“Most men don’t experience noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer until the cancer is very advanced— and even if they do, the most common symptoms are easy to dismiss as regular signs of aging,” says Dr. Dorin.
Symptoms can include: urination problems, issues with erections or ejaculation, blood in the urine or semen, or pain and stiffness in the lower back, hips or upper thighs.
Myth 5: The treatments for prostate cancer cause permanent erectile dysfunction and incontinence.
Fact: Men who experience side effects from treatment usually see an improvement within a year.
“If you’re worried about the impact of surgery or radiation on your sex life, or other side effects like urine leakage, talk to your doctor,” says Dr. Dorin. “They can explain the possible side effects of your particular treatment, and how long those effects might last based on your health record.”
You might be pleasantly surprised.
“Increasingly, treatments like minimally invasive surgery or precision radiation therapy can be administered in ways that preserve erectile function and urinary continence,” says Dr. Dorin. For example, the skilled surgeons at Hartford HeatlhCare can avoid certain nerves during prostate cancer surgery, lowering the risk of post-surgical side effects.
In conclusion: There are a lot of myths out there about prostate cancer. If you have questions, ask your doctor. They’ll help you find the facts — and bust the myths.