IN THIS ARTICLE
- Prostate cancer screening tools
- Ethic disparities
- Screening guidance
Prostate cancer, the second most common cancer to affect American men, is a slow-growing cancer that is curable when detected early. While the overall incidence has declined in the past 20 years (see Figure 1), prostate cancer remains a major concern among black men due to disproportionate incidence and mortality rates.1-3 A general understanding of the prostate and of prostate cancer lays the groundwork to acknowledge and address this divide.
ANATOMY OF THE PROSTATE
Although most men know where the prostate gland is located, many do not understand how it functions.4 The largest accessory gland of the male reproductive system, the prostate is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum (see Figure 2).5 The urethra passes through this gland; therefore, enlargement of the prostate can cause constriction of the urethra, which can affect the ability to eliminate urine from the body.5
The prostate is broken down into four distinct regions (see Figure 3). Certain types of inflammation may occur more often in some regions of the prostate than others; as such, 75% of prostate cancer occurs in the peripheral zone (the region located closest to the rectal wall).5,6
DIAGNOSING PROSTATE CANCER
Signs and symptoms
According to the CDC, the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer include
- Difficulty starting urination
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Difficulty emptying the bladder
- Pain or burning during urination
- Blood in the urine or semen
- Pain in the back, hips, or pelvis
- Painful ejaculation.
However, none of these signs and symptoms are unique to prostate cancer.7 For instance, difficulty starting urination, weak or interrupted flow of urine, and frequent urination can also be attributed to benign prostatic hyperplasia. Further, in its early stages, prostate cancer may not exhibit any signs or symptoms, making accurate screening essential for detection and treatment.7
There are two primary tools for detection of prostate cancer: the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and the digital rectal exam (DRE).8 The blood test for PSA is routinely used as a screening tool and is therefore considered a standard test for prostate cancer.9 A PSA level above 4.0 ng/mL is considered abnormal.10 Although measuring the PSA level can improve the odds of early prostate cancer detection, there is considerable debate over its dependability in this regard, as PSA can be elevated for benign reasons.
Sociocultural and genetic risk factors
While both black and white men are at an increased risk for prostate cancer if a first-degree relative (ie, father, brother, son) had the disease, one in five black men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes, compared with one in seven white men.3 And despite a five-year survival rate of nearly 100% for regional prostate cancer, black men are more than two times as likely as white men to die of the disease (1 in 23 and 1 in 38, respectively).8,11 From 2011 to 2015, the age-adjusted mortality rate of prostate cancer among black men was 40.8, versus 18.2 for non-Hispanic white men (per 100,000 population).12
Continue to: The disparity in prostate cancer mortality...