The second leading cause of cancer deaths in males, prostate cancer is also the most common cancer in men. Nearly 240,000 new cases are diagnosed every year with that number expected to increase as the population ages, since prostate cancer is primarily a disease of older men. Because of the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer, the American Society of Oncology suggests screening should start at age 50 with a PSA blood test and an exam by a physician. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened beginning at age 40.
However, the question whether or not men should be tested for prostate cancer remains. A recent government review by the US Preventative Sources Task Force recommended doctors not test men for prostate cancer. Yet, older studies from other countries that employ this same philosophy have shown a higher death rate among their citizens from prostate cancer. Most doctors in the United States prefer to evaluate each person individually and let the patient participate in the process of deciding to screen for prostate cancer. Factors that help decide whether to screen or not include age of the patient, family history of prostate cancer, and the patient’s quality of life. Having a friend or family member diagnosed with prostate cancer or being encouraged by family to be screened usually leads a man to be tested.
When diagnosed with prostate cancer, men today have many options for treatment. Doctors should review all the choices of treatments with their patients while explaining the risks, benefits, and side effects of each choice. The goal of treatments today is to minimize the side effects as much as possible. For example, over the last thirty years, the goal of radiation oncologists has been to decrease or eliminate the side effects of treatment while still delivering a curative dose to the cancer. Today, side effects of radiation therapy to the prostate are very minimal.
Therefore, finding prostate cancer early by screening can and does save lives. Doctors have always been told and believed that finding cancer at the earliest stage allows patients to be cured at a higher rate. This belief is still true for prostate cancer.
A: Most men with early stages of prostate cancer are symptom free. More advanced prostate cancer may cause signs and symptoms such as painful urination or bowel movements, blood in urine or stools, and difficulty urinating or being constipated. The late symptoms indicating the cancer has spread can include bone pain. A prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test can detect prostate cancer long before any symptoms might appear. The recommendation is that men over the age of 50 or men ages 40 to 50 who have a family history of prostate cancer be screened. On September 19, 2013, Fort Smith Radiation Oncology is offering a free PSA screening from 8am-11:30am and 1pm-3:00pm. Please call 479-648-1800 to receive additional information and to schedule your free screening.
Q: Does having a vasectomy increase my risk of prostate cancer?
A: From all the studies I have read, none have shown a link between having a vasectomy and developing prostate cancer. This thought is just one of the many myths regarding prostate cancer. Other myths can include the following: prostate cancer treatment always causes impotence, sexual activity increases the risk of prostate cancer, prostate cancer is contagious, and prostate cancer is an “old man’s” disease. For more information about prostate cancer, please make plans to attend my UAFS Lifelong Learning lecture titled Prostate Cancer: Myths and Reality at UAFS on September 18at 1:00 pm at the Echols Conference center. Visit the website http://uafs.edu/cll/lifelong-learning-lecture-series to register for the lecture or call 479-648-1800 for more information.