What men need to know about prostate cancer screening
When it comes to men’s health, prostate cancer is a top concern. And it should be.
Urologist Timothy Averch, MD, said, “Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men, with about 30,000 men dying each year. One in nine Caucasian men and one in six African American men will be diagnosed. But if detected early it’s very treatable.”
Dr. Averch said there are several factors that increase a person’s risk for prostate cancer. They include:
- Being a man.
- Age – older men are more at risk.
- Race – African American men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer.
- Family history – having a sibling, father, uncle or grandparent with prostate cancer increases your risk.
- Exposure to agent orange – from being in the military.
“The tricky part is prostate cancer really doesn’t have any symptoms, so we rely on screening. If you’re 55-69 years old, you want to be screened for prostate cancer or at least have that discussion with your doctor.”
A screening involves a simple blood test and a digital rectal exam. “A finger in the bottom, if you will.”
Dr. Averch acknowledged that many men see the screening recommendations as a moving target. “Even with a prostate cancer diagnosis, most men will live with the cancer and not die from it. It’s a very slow-growing cancer in general, so we want to make sure we’re picking out the right patients who will benefit from screening – again, those are men 55-69 years old. If you have any higher risk, such as if you’re an African American man or you have a direct relative who has prostate cancer, you should definitely have a discussion with your doctor about screening while you’re in your forties.”
The good news is if prostate cancer is caught early, it’s very treatable and there are several treatment options available. “The most common treatment option these days is active surveillance, where we keep an eye on it and recheck it periodically. Most cancers don’t progress. But if intervention is considered, options include robotic surgery and radiation therapy, as well as cryotherapy which specifically targets the cancer,” Dr. Averch said.
The most important thing men should do is talk to a primary care doctor. “Just have that conversation with your provider and ask if a screening is something you should do,” he said.