Prostate cancer awareness takes center stage in September
Jessica Brewer, LMH Health
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Shining a light on prostate cancer and the statistics behind the disease is important to raise awareness, increase education and emphasize the importance of age-appropriate health screening for men.
Dr. Luke Huerter
Dr. Luke Huerter with LMH Oncology and Hematology Center said prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers around.
“Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men and the second most common cancer in men worldwide,” he said. “In the United States, it is estimated that one in nine men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. In 2020, there will be over 190,000 cases diagnosed and over 33,000 deaths from prostate cancer in the U.S. Raising awareness about such an important health issue for men is very important.”
Though there is no way to completely prevent the development of prostate cancer and there are no FDA-approved medications for prostate cancer prevention, Dr. Huerter said there are medications used to treat prostate enlargement that have been shown to decrease the risk of prostate cancer.
“There are lifestyle modifications that studies suggest can decrease the risk of prostate cancer,” he said. “A diet low in fat and dairy and high in fruits and vegetables is thought to be beneficial. Avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise are also likely beneficial in decreasing the risk of developing prostate cancer. Localized or early-stage prostate cancer is very treatable. For these men, the expectation is a cure when their disease is diagnosed early, which provides another reason to attend regular check-ups and get screened.”
Dr. Douglas Klingler
Dr. Douglas Klingler, Lawrence Urology Specialists, said that many men believe that the absence of symptoms means they probably have nothing to worry about.
“Unfortunately, prostate cancer rarely causes any symptoms until the disease is fairly far progressed and usually beyond cure,” he said. “That is why the PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) test is useful, as it allows us to detect cancer years before someone would have symptoms and hopefully while the disease is still confined to the prostate. Newer imaging techniques are also beginning to show promise to help us identify men who need further evaluation.”
Both Dr. Huerter and Dr. Klingler emphasized that prostate cancer is rarely diagnosed in men under the age of 40. Most men are diagnosed between the ages of 55-75, with most over the age of 60.
“A family history of prostate cancer, especially in a brother or father, African heritage and certain genetic mutations all increase a man’s risk of having prostate cancer,” Dr. Klingler said. “PSA screening generally starts between 45-55 years of age and goes until age 70. Depending on a man’s health and longevity, some men will elect to continue screening for a longer period. Please remember to talk to your physician or other health professional about prostate cancer screening.”
“Prostate cancer screening doesn't have to be intimidating,” Dr. Huerter said. “Screening involves a periodic physical examination and monitoring a blood test (PSA). The first step is a visit with your primary care physician to review personal risk factors and engage in shared decision making regarding screening. For most average-risk men, this visit is appropriate around the age of 50.”
Dr. Huerter said prostate cancer screening, diagnosis and management is a collaborative process between primary care physicians, urologists, oncologists and occasionally other specialists. The interdisciplinary team at LMH Health can help guide patients through these steps and create individualized plans rooted in evidence-based medicine.
“Prostate cancer can vary from one person to the next,” Dr. Huerter said. “There are many men who are at high risk but aren't being screened. Awareness is vital to getting these individuals started in the screening process. Hopefully, with this approach, men who develop prostate cancer will have it discovered early when treatment is most successful.”
Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health.