September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

By Lynn McCain | September 17 2019

Every year in the United States, nearly 3 million men hear the words, “You have prostate cancer.” That is 1 in 9 men each year.  The word “cancer” triggers an immediate response in most people…fear, worry about family, denial, and often an increased awareness of one’s mortality.  Yet, most cases of prostate cancer are slow growing and initially confined to the prostate.  These slow growing tumors may need minimal or even no treatment.  Other cases, however, grow rapidly and spread quickly (metastacize).  Men of African descent have particularly high rates of prostate cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed at younger ages and at later stages.

Symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in semen
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain
  • Erectile dysfunction.

If you experience any of these signs or have symptoms that concern you, make an appointment with your doctor.  Your doctor will have lab tests run to determine if you have cancer or if the symptoms have other causes.

At Michigan Medicine, our Pathology Department is on the cutting edge of prostate cancer research to find the underlying causes for advanced prostate cancer and to develop more effective treatments for these patients.  Using Mi-ONCOSEQ, a test developed at The Michigan Center for Translational Pathology, led by Dr. Arul Chinnaiyan, researchers discovered that 12% of metastatic (cancer that has spread to other organs) prostate cancers harbor an inherited mutation, for many of which, researchers have developed very effective therapies. In fact, the death rate from prostate cancer in the US has declined 52% since 1993. “There is a high percentage of inherited mutations in metastatic cancer. Once these mutations are identified, it’s possible others in the family may also carry that gene and be at higher risk of cancer,” Chinnaiyan says.  Patients tested with Mi-ONCOSEQ receive genetic counseling, which is also extended to their families in cases of inherited mutation.  Family members who inherit the gene mutation can take advantage of risk reducing care to lower their risk for prostate cancer, including starting prostate cancer screening by age 40.

For more information on prostate cancer, visit:  The American Cancer Society or the Prostate Cancer Foundation.