Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men, lung cancer being first, striking approximately 165,000 men each year with about 30,000 dying of the disease.
Caught early, prostate cancer can be treated, usually successfully. But remember, in early stages, prostate cancer has no symptoms, so don't wait for "something bad" to happen to Get It Checked.
Compared with other men, African-American men and men with a family history of the disease are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer. A man with a father or brother who had prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease.
For almost 30 years, doctors have had a powerful weapon in their arsenal for detecting prostate cancer. In addition to the digital rectal exam (DRE) patients can have a simple blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA), that will detect a majority of prostate problems early. Since the PSA has been used, prostate cancer deaths have declined and the number of successfully treated prostate cancer cases has risen.
During September—Prostate Cancer Awareness Month—Men’s Health Network is urging men to talk to their healthcare providers about prostate cancer. They also encourage women to get involved and urge their husbands, fathers, brothers, and other loved ones to talk to their healthcare provider about prostate screening, including the PSA and DRE tests.
A federally staffed panel of experts, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), recommends that men age 55-69 should speak to their healthcare provider about using the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. But Men's Health Network, many other patient advocate organizations, and many healthcare providers don't think that goes far enough.
Men’s Heath Network urges the following men to talk to their healthcare provider about routine prostate cancer screening:
• All men over age 50, and at age 40 for African Americans
• Men with a family history of prostate cancer
• Veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and
• Men exposed to pesticides and certain other chemicals.
If you are on Medicare, prostate cancer screening is a part of your Welcome to Medicare physical, the free comprehensive physical exam you receive in your first year of eligibility. But you may have to ask for the "Welcome" physical since many healthcare providers don't seem to know about it. And, Medicare continues to cover prostate cancer screening in following years.
No insurance and limited funds? Watch for free screenings in your area. Many healthcare providers, hospitals, clinics, and health fairs offer free prostate screenings in September and at other times during the year.