If you know eight men who are older than 50, then you likely know at least one person with prostate cancer. You should urge all of them, however, to get a screening.
Prostate cancer, which is diagnosed in about one in eight men, is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men. Yet nearly nine in 10 prostate cancers can be cured if caught early, through a simple blood test and physical exam.
These are facts all men should be aware of, especially in September – Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Here’s something else you should be aware of: more than 3.1 million men diagnosed with prostate cancer are alive today, thanks to preventive screenings and advanced treatments.
What Can You Do? Get Screened
You should view prostate cancer screenings as routine procedures, beginning at age 50 or at age 45 if you are African American or have an immediate family member diagnosed with the disease. Much like a cholesterol screening or mammogram, it is a preventive measure.
Typically, the screening begins with an overview of your medical history and a physical. A digital exam, in which the doctor inserts a lubricated, gloved finger into the rectum, is performed to detect abnormalities. However, many prostate cancers are too small or distant to be felt through a rectal exam. This is why physicians advise a blood test as well, called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening.
A PSA is a protein that all prostate cells produce – including cancerous cells, if present. Some of this protein is passed into the bloodstream, so men with prostate cancer often have elevated PSA levels. The PSA blood test measures this amount.
But here’s the thing: There is no standard for a “normal” PSA level; it varies from man to man. This is why men should request a PSA screening at ages 45 or 50, to establish their healthy baselines.
A Positive Diagnosis Can Be Met with Many Treatments
If you are diagnosed with low-risk cancer, your doctor might advise surveillance, which will require follow-up biopsies. If the disease progresses, other treatments can be pursued. Among them:
The prostate can be completely removed to eradicate the cancer, often through minimally invasive robotic surgery that requires only small incisions and a brief (usually overnight) hospital stay.
In this process, high doses of energy are directed at the cancer cells, killing them. Among the options:
- CyberKnife SBRT – High doses of radiation are delivered over a small number of outpatient sessions, typically five treatments in two weeks. The radiation is delivered from thousands of angles, ensuring a high level of accuracy.
- Image-guided, or external, radiation – An option for when a larger area around the prostate requires treatment. High doses of radiation are delivered in daily sessions, usually over eight weeks. It also is referred to as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
- Brachytherapy – Here, radioactive pellets or seeds are inserted directly into the prostate. The seeds steadily release radiation for about six months.
Medications can block the production of testosterone, which aids the growth of prostate cancer cells. When these cells are cut off from their energy source, they essentially starve, slowing the cancer’s growth and potentially shrinking the malignancy (remission).
This treatment stimulates your body’s immune system to find and destroy cancer cells. New advancements in medications are improving the effectiveness of this approach by helping the body locate more elusive cancer cells.
Advised for later stages of prostate cancer that does not respond to other therapies, chemotherapy is a drug combination tailored to destroy cancer cells. A specified number of treatments will be prescribed over a set period, and dosages vary, depending on the cancer.
Prostate Cancer Prevention is Available. The Choice is Yours
There are many treatments for prostate cancer, but no amount of research can guarantee the best approach for you. Research has concluded, however, that an early diagnosis will improve your treatment’s success.
If you choose to be screened, you have taken the first step toward a cancer-free life.
To learn more about the risks, symptoms, and stages of prostate cancer, as well as a guide of helpful resources, you can access it all on our website, here.