I encourage men to be more knowledgeable of their family history and to potentially begin testing for prostate cancer earlier if you have a family history of the disease.
Should you be concerned about your PSA levels or prostate cancer?
It is suggested that one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime according to the American Cancer Society. I was familiar with the importance of monitoring for prostate cancer and getting PSA levels checked as I have known individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer. It made sense to me that if you have a family member such as a biological father who has been diagnosed, it would seem important to monitor PSA levels at an earlier age for precaution. If your father had prostate cancer or you are BRCA positive there is an increased risk of certain cancers which can be important to monitor for and potentially at an age earlier then the common age of diagnosis. Due to this, I have requested my husband have his levels checked annually since age 40 as his own father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
What a PSA level measures, according to WebMD, is a prostate specific antigen and protein levels produced by prostate cells. Your PSA levels can be checked as part of an annual physical for a man when they are commonly checking blood work for cholesterol and other important baseline measures. It is suggested if the prostate protein levels are high or a baseline increases significantly from one year the next your urologist or physician may want to look further into the underlying reason for the increase. How early you should get tested can range from what I have read, but I insisted my husband due to family history begin being monitored in his early 40's. Some could say this is too young, as the rate of diagnosis is more common after age 65, and according to Cancer.net, 60% of men are diagnosed over age 65, but my family has learned this can occur sooner. I learned in January that not only was my husband diagnosed with prostate cancer following a biopsy, but my father was also diagnosed. My husband is younger than myself and in his 40's, while my father is older than the average age of diagnosis.
A concern for my husband or anyone in their 40's is that the cancer will be around longer and, in some cases, when diagnosed younger the cancer can be more aggressive. The current biopsy has suggested my husband's diagnosis has been caught early which we are grateful for and the biopsy is not suggesting it is currently aggressive, but long-term considerations need to be given to the fact he is being diagnosed at a young age. Treatment options are a consideration for anyone diagnosed with prostate cancer and can include active surveillance, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and removal of the prostate among other new and developing approaches.
September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and while being diagnosed with cancer is not pleasant, it may be preferable to be diagnosed sooner rather than later. If prostate cancer runs in your family, I would highly encourage men to get tested sooner than the average age of 65 to be on top of your PSA baseline and to monitor changes in prostate health. According to the CDC there may be no symptoms of prostate cancer, but some symptoms which would need to be looked at by a medical professional can include: difficulty urinating; interruption of urine flow; a weak urine flow; infrequent urination noted during the evening; difficulty emptying the bladder; pain or burning during urination or ejaculation; blood in urine or semen; and pain in the hips, back, or pelvis that doesn't go away on its own.
According to the Mayo Clinic, prostate cancer is a common cancer, with more than 3 million diagnoses a year. But if it is detected early and you're aware of the signs and symptoms by being educated about your condition, you can expect to live a long life.