In general, men don’t do as good of a job as women when keeping up with their health screenings, which makes them more vulnerable to chronic, life-threatening diseases. Prostate cancer is a serious threat to our dads, brothers and sons as they age, with 1 in 8 men diagnosed at some point in their life. This year, nearly 250,000 men will be diagnosed, and for many, it will be deadly.
Here are 3 facts to help you understand screening recommendations:
- The earlier it’s detected, the easier it is to beat.
- Prostate cancer is slow-growing in comparison to other cancers.
- It rarely affects men younger than 50.
Two screenings for prostate cancer
For decades, we’ve had two tests for prostate cancer, the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA) and the digital rectal exam (DRE). The PSA works by detecting a chemical made only by the prostate. If the prostate becomes enlarged, infected or inflamed, the chemical values will indicate an issue. The digital rectal exam allows a doctor to feel abnormalities with the prostate. The use of these tests has dramatically improved the early detection and survival of prostate cancer compared with the pre-PSA era.
When and how often to screen
“We do not recommend routine PSA screening for men younger than 55,” says Dr. T.J. Tipton, a urologist with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners. However, men at higher risk, including African Americans or those with a strong family history of prostate or other cancers such as breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer, should discuss the risks/benefits of early screening with their doctor. “We also recommend against routine PSA screening of men with life expectancy less than 10-15 years based on the slow-growing nature of most prostate cancers,” he explains.
Men 55 – 70 have the most risk for the disease and benefit most from routine prostate cancer screening. This typically involves a PSA and DRE annually, but follow-up could be more or less often depending on risk factors.
Prevention & early detection
“Prevention is the best medicine for prostate cancer and all other disease,” says Dr. Tipton. Maintain a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Cut down on red meat, processed meat and animal fat. Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight is key, as obesity is directly related to increased prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
And second to prevention, early detection is best. Screening is the best way to find prostate cancer early while it’s most treatable.
If you or a loved one has questions or concerns about screening or treatment for prostate cancer, please call (843) 402-CARE for a free referral to a Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated urologist.