Published on December 01, 2014

Q&A: Prostate Cancer

with Dr. Noah May, MPH urologist

Noah MayQ: What are prostate cancer symptoms?

African-American men are especially at risk for prostate cancer, an often silent disease that has exploded in West Philadelphia, which has one of the highest incidence rates in the country. Talk to the men in your life about getting screened, recommends Dr. Noah May, a general urologist at Mercy Philadelphia.

Q: Regarding prostate cancer, what symptoms should men look for?

This is why screening is so important: By the time you have symptoms, it’s likely to be fairly advanced. Symptoms would include difficulty urinating and sometimes lymph nodes you can feel in the groin. When you have weight loss, bone pain and fatigue, those are late symptoms of a cancer that has become metastatic. So we’re trying to catch it when it’s confined to the prostate. Typically, early in its course, the cancer causes no symptoms whatsoever.

Q: Are there any risk factors for prostate cancer?

There’s really no behavior (e.g., diet or exercise) or line of work that will predispose you to developing prostate cancer. However, West Philadelphia has a very high incidence of prostate cancer, and also of cancer that is advanced at the time it is detected. This has much to do with lack of awareness of the need for screening in the predominantly African- American community here, who are at high risk. Also, the older you get, the likelihood for prostate cancer increases.

Q: What age should men start getting screened?

Current guidelines recommend offering screening to men ages 55 to 69. If you have a strong family history of prostate cancer, or you’re African American, you can consider starting screening as early as age 40.