Each year, nearly 30,000 men die from prostate cancer. In fact, it’s the second leading cause of death from cancer in men after lung cancer. This is why September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Being aware of your risk for prostate cancer—as well as the signs, symptoms, and detection tests—is important to educate yourself about your health.

Early Detection Is Crucial

Men who get prostate cancer detected early have a very high survival rate. The survival rate for men after five years of early detection and treatment of prostate cancer is nearly 100%! This is why early detection is so crucial. If you know you have prostate cancer, you can treat it. If you don’t know, you can’t treat it. Some tests that can help detect prostate cancer early on are:

  • Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. This blood test measures a specific protein only produced by your prostate. The level of this protein can inform your doctor if you have prostate cancer and even if you’re at risk.
  • Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). Your doctor can check your prostate via your rectum and be able to tell if the prostate is enlarged or if there are any tumors. While this exam on its own is not a concrete detector of prostate cancer, it can often point to problems with the prostate early on in the process or accompany the other detection tests.
  • Transrectal ultrasound (TRUS). A small probe is inserted in your rectum, giving off sound waves that return to the probe, and a computer produces an image of your prostate based on the sound waves and echoes. This test can help determine irregularities with your prostate.

When your doctor gets results that point to prostate cancer, a biopsy of your prostate may be able to prove it. A transrectal ultrasound is included in this procedure so the doctor can “see” your prostate to take a sample. It is then examined microscopically for cancer cells.

These tests are important to see if you have prostate cancer. Of course, a biopsy or transrectal ultrasound won’t be necessary if your PSA test comes back normal and your doctor finds no abnormalities with the digital rectal exam. However, each of these tests plays a vital role in the early detection of prostate cancer.

Subtypes Exist

While prostate cancer is often rumored to be a slow-growing disease—and indeed, the majority of prostate cancers are slow-growing—there are subtypes of the disease. Some of these subtypes are more aggressive than others, and you may not have as much time as you think you have if you get diagnosed with it, especially if you haven’t gotten diagnosed early in your cancer. There are both aggressive and non-aggressive subtypes of prostate cancer. A recent test found five different subtypes of prostate cancer, each with a different genetic code—so when you get diagnosed, don’t think you have all the time in the world to treat it. Be proactive and get treatment before it’s too late.

Know the Symptoms

Knowing the symptoms of prostate cancer during National Prostate Cancer Awareness month is an important part of educating yourself about prostate cancer. The symptoms of prostate cancer include trouble urinating, whether you’re experiencing a “weak” stream or needing to urinate more often, seeing blood in your urine, having difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, or pain in your back, hips, or lower abdomen. If you have any of these symptoms, get checked out by your urologist as soon as possible.

National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is about educating others and understanding that 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. Evaluate your risk, visit your doctor, and know the signs and symptoms to ensure you can detect prostate cancer early and treat it effectively.