Ladies, June is Men’s Health Month, and there’s no better time than now to get the important men in your life thinking about their prostate health and screenings – a topic that can sometimes be difficult or intimidating for them to talk about. As the most common cancer among men after skin cancer, it’s important to know that prostate cancer can be treated successfully, especially when caught in its earlier stages. In fact, there are more than 2 million male survivors of prostate cancer in the United States.
Prostate cancer is often diagnosed at such an early stage that there are no outward symptoms of disease, which is why many patients are initially alerted to it after having a routine physical or examination for an unrelated concern. Diagnosis usually occurs following an initial screening through a digital rectal examination (DRE) and a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test. An elevated PSA level in the blood stream may indicate prostate cancer, but not always. Therefore, if either the DRE or PSA is abnormal, additional tests including ultrasound or urinalysis are conducted before a prostate biopsy is performed.
The information about if, when and how old men should be when they get screened can be confusing and has recently been a focus of national debate. You may have seen a New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/business/prostate-screening-guidelines-are-loosened.html?_r=0) earlier this year that outlined the new guidelines recommended by the American Urological Association (AUA). The guidelines, which are more in line with the American Cancer Society’s recommendations, say men 55 to 69 with average risk of getting prostate cancer should discuss the pros and cons of screening with their doctors. If they choose to undergo screening, they should do so every two years instead of annually. According to the AUA, routine screening is no longer recommended for men of average risk who are younger than 55 or older than 70. Of course, every man is different and age shouldn’t be his only consideration. Advise him to talk about risk factors, family history and his personal health with his doctor to determine the best prostate health recommendations for him. And if nothing else, tell him to get an annual physical, at the very least. Yes, it’s that important.
The best defense against disease, prostate cancer included, is education. I encourage you to use Men’s Health Month as a way to initiate an open conversation with the man in your life and his doctor about any questions or concerns you may have about prostate cancer and PSA screening.
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