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Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer in American men and the second leading cause of death. However, thanks to early detection and advanced treatment options, mortality rates have been declining since the mid 1990s. 

"About one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer," says Roderick Crocker, M.D., Chief of Urology at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. "However, men are becoming more aware of this cancer at a younger age and taking control, which helps us detect and treat it earlier and more effectively."

The more men know about their risks and when they should talk with their doctor, the better they are able to protect themselves from this deadly, but treatable, cancer.

Are you at risk?
The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that sits in front of the rectum just under the bladder. It is in continuity with the urethra as part of the urinary tract and also aids in the production of seminal fluid. Due to its hormonal nature, it is the male organ that is most commonly affected by benign and malignant tumors.

Every man is at risk for prostate cancer. However, some factors may increase risk, including:

  • Age. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly two out of every three cases of prostate cancer in the United States occurs in men age 65 and older. This condition is almost nonexistent in men younger than 40 years old.
  • Family History. Like many conditions, a tendency to develop prostate cancer can be hereditary. Those with a father, brother or uncle who develops prostate cancer before age 65 are more than twice as likely to develop it themselves.
  • Race. African American men are at increased risk for developing prostate cancer as well as more aggressive forms of the disease. While they still can be affected, prostate cancer is less common in Asian and Hispanic men.

"All men should begin discussing their risks with their doctor by age 50," recommends Dr. Crocker. "But those who are African American or have a family history should start in their 40s."

Individualized treatments
"Prostate cancer affects each man differently. In some men, the cancer grows very slowly and may never become apparent. In others, the disease is extremely aggressive," says Dr. Crocker. "That's why detection and treatments are highly individualized."

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery. Removal of the prostate, called radical prostatectomy, is a common procedure for men who are in good health with localized cancer. This can be done as an open surgical procedure or laparoscopically with the use of robotics.
  • Brachytherapy. Also known as seed therapy, brachytherapy is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment typically reserved for men with less aggressive cancer, and smaller tumors and prostates. During the procedure, doctors implant small radioactive seeds into the prostate.
  • Radiation. External radiation beam therapy is often used if the patient has a more advanced stage of prostate cancer or isn't a candidate for surgery. Mount Auburn Hospital uses state-of-the-art, image-guided radiation therapy to target the area requiring treatment.
  • Watchful waiting. Extremely low-stage cancer may be managed with watchful waiting. This form of treatment requires close monitoring by a physician.

Mount Auburn Hospital takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating prostate cancer. In addition, it offers the most advanced technology and techniques for all levels of the condition. Men also have access to specialized services at the Barron Center for Men's Health, where they can get support for all their health care needs.

For a free Mount Auburn Hospital physician directory, please call us at (617) 499-5094.