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'Early detection can truly save lives,' Sen. Thom Tillis reveals cancer diagnosis

“Next week, I will have surgery in North Carolina to treat prostate cancer... and expect to make a full recovery, " Tillis said.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Editor's note: The video in this story is from March 25, 2021, about a Triad golf tournament that looks to help cancer charities.

North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis revealed Monday that he has cancer.

The senator released a statement saying that he will have surgery to treat the cancer next week.

Tillis said he expects to make a full recovery.

Next week, I will have surgery in North Carolina to treat prostate cancer. I am in the hands of outstanding medical professionals and expect to make a full recovery,” Tillis said in a statement Monday. “I am blessed that my cancer was detected relatively early, and I can’t emphasize enough how important routine screenings are, regardless of how healthy you think you are. I had no symptoms and would have never imagined I had cancer. My prognosis is good because I went to my annual physical and received a PSA test, which led to a biopsy and eventually my diagnosis. Early detection can truly save lives.” 

Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among men, according to the Mayo Clinic. Prostate cancer that's detected early — when it's still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment.

Symptoms

While some may not experience symptoms at all, prostate cancer that is more advance may cause the following symptoms:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Decreased force in the stream of urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the semen
  • Bone pain
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • What causes prostate cancer?

Like most other cancers, it’s unclear what causes it. According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors know that prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate develop changes in their DNA.

A cell's DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do. The changes tell the cells to grow and divide more rapidly than normal cells do. The abnormal cells continue living, when other cells would die.

Who is at risk of prostate cancer?

According to the Mayo Clinic, men are at risk if:

Older age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. It's most common after age 50.

Race. For reasons not yet determined, Black people have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do people of other races. In Black people, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.

Family history. If a blood relative, such as a parent, sibling or child, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.

Obesity. People who are obese may have a higher risk of prostate cancer compared with people considered to have a healthy weight, though studies have had mixed results. In obese people, the cancer is more likely to be more aggressive and more likely to return after initial treatment.

Can you prevent prostate cancer?

The Mayo Clinic says you can reduce your risk of prostate cancer if you:

Choose a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables contain many vitamins and nutrients that can contribute to your health.

Whether you can prevent prostate cancer through diet has yet to be conclusively proved. But eating a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables can improve your overall health.

Choose healthy foods over supplements. No studies have shown that supplements play a role in reducing your risk of prostate cancer. Instead, choose foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals so that you can maintain healthy levels of vitamins in your body.

Exercise most days of the week. Exercise improves your overall health, helps you maintain your weight and improves your mood. Try to exercise most days of the week. If you're new to exercise, start slow and work your way up to more exercise time each day.

Maintain a healthy weight. If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by choosing a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, add more exercise and reduce the number of calories you eat each day. Ask your doctor for help creating a plan for healthy weight loss.

Talk to your doctor about increased risk of prostate cancer. If you have a very high risk of prostate cancer, you and your doctor may consider medications or other treatments to reduce the risk. Some studies suggest that taking 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, including finasteride (Propecia, Proscar) and dutasteride (Avodart), may reduce the overall risk of developing prostate cancer. These drugs are used to control prostate gland enlargement and hair loss.

However, some evidence indicates that people taking these medications may have an increased risk of getting a more serious form of prostate cancer (high-grade prostate cancer). 

If you're concerned that you may have prostate cancer, contact your doctor.