Apart from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lifetime. While the cause is unclear, experts agree that prostate cancer starts when DNA within cells in the prostate gland mutate and multiply quicker than normal cells. These rogue cells gather to form tumors and, like most cancers, spread to other areas of the body if not caught early enough.
While prostate cancer can occur at any age, the median age of diagnosis is 66 years of age. It is rare for men under 40 years of age to develop the disease. Known risk factors include:
- Age – the older you are, the more at risk you are of developing prostate cancer.
- Race – for unknown reasons, black men are more at risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Family history – a family history of prostate cancer increases the likelihood of developing the disease. Having a family history of breast cancer, or genes that are associated with breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2), increase the risk as well.
- Obesity- while no study has made a direct correlation, anecdotal evidence suggests that obesity is a risk factor for prostate cancer.
Symptoms of Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer often shows few, or even no symptoms in early stages. Most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are in stages II or III. Early symptoms are mild, and often include:
- An increased PSA level (Prostate Specific Antigen). This test is usually included in a yearly physical for men ages 55 or older, or even earlier if a family history of prostate cancer exists.
- Increase in urinary frequency or the urge to urinate throughout the night.
- Difficulty stopping or starting urination.
- Blood in the urine or in semen.
- New onset of erectile dysfunction.
When the disease has progressed, symptoms often increase and can include:
- Nontraumatic pain in the bones that does not resolve normally.
- Swelling in the pelvis or legs.
- Numbness in the back, pelvis, or legs.
While each patient will vary with symptoms, men exhibiting any of the aforementioned symptoms should schedule an appointment with their provider immediately.
Diagnosing Prostate Cancer
While prostate cancer is common, it is often very treatable when diagnosed at an early stage. For this reason, routine physicals are critical for catching the disease before it spreads and becomes less manageable.
Patients who exhibit symptoms of prostate cancer and/or have high PSA levels should be evaluated with advanced testing methods to confirm the presence of disease.
Prostate MRI is one of the most effective tests to diagnose prostate cancer. MRI is non-invasive, has no ionizing radiation, and takes only about an hour to complete. In addition to a high degree of diagnostic efficacy, MRI can evaluate the lymph nodes surrounding the prostate gland, as well as the bones of the pelvis, which are typically the first places prostate cancer spreads. Additionally, MRI can evaluate the anterior aspect of the prostate gland, which accounts for approximately ¼-⅓ of all prostate cancers.
Having an MRI can help you and your provider determine the next steps for your treatment. Your doctor may still request a prostate biopsy, but MRI can reveal which areas are at the highest risk and spatially localize tumors, therefore reducing the risk of biopsying the wrong area of the prostate. The MRI will also reveal the extent of the disease process and if more drastic measures are necessary.
At THE RADIOLOGY CLINIC, we use 3T MRI to produce prostate images with exceptional clarity and resolution. All of our patients receive a muti-parametric study (multiple MRI weightings/views) that exceeds national standards of prostate imaging.
If you are experiencing symptoms of prostate cancer, speak with your provider. If your doctor decides that an MRI is the next step in your care, we are here for you. Please call our office at 301-217-0500 to make an appointment or if you have any questions about prostate MRI.