Time to create Awareness of Men’s Health Issues!
Movember (from the Australian-English diminutive word for mustache , “mo”, and “November”) is an annual movement involving growing of moustaches during the month of November to create awareness of men’s health related issues including Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, Men’s Health and suicide prevention.
Therefore, I have decided to dedicate this month’s #GatekeepersofMen series to the Movember movement. Let’s start off with Prostate Cancer.
How common is prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men (skin cancer being the most common). The American Cancer Society estimates that about 1 out of 9 men will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime. That number is staggering! Think about it, if you are in a get-together event with 8 of your male friends, one of you will be diagnosed with prostate cancer!
Moreover, older men and African-American men have a higher risk of developing cancer in their prostate. 60% of cases are diagnosed in men older than 65 years old, and it is extremely rare for men under 40 to be diagnosed. Regarding race: 1 of every 6 African-American men develop prostate cancer.
Who is at risk?
- Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age. This is why we encourage men older than 50 years old to ask their doctors about screening.
- Family History: If someone in your family (brother, father or son) was diagnosed with prostate cancer you have a 2 to 3 times higher risk of developing the disease.
- Race: Studies show that African American are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.
- Smoking: Just as with other cancers, smoking increases your risk of developing prostate cancer.
What are the symptoms of prostate cancer?
- Urinary frequency, especially during the night
- Difficulty starting urination
- Difficulty holding the urge to urinate
- Weak stream
- Blood in the urine or semen
One symptom: frequent pain of the lower back, hips or upper thighs, could be an indication that the cancer is already spreading. Therefore, it is crucial that us men start the screening process when indicated.
What does Prostate Cancer Screening involve?
- PSA test: PSA stands for prostate specific antigen. PSA is a chemical that ONLY the prostate produces into the bloodstream. When PSA is found elevated in a blood test, it indicates that there is increased activity of the prostate. In some occasions, that increased activity may indicate that there is uncontrolled cell growth which means, cancer is growing.
- DRE: DRE stands for digital rectal exam. Yes. It is a necessary tool that urologists use to help detect the presence and aggressiveness of prostate cancer even though nobody likes this test. Why? Not all prostate cancers show an elevated PSA. Therefore, we don’t want to miss a cancer that may be growing even when the PSA is within normal limits.
When should I start screening?
The most common question that I receive from friends, family, and patients is: when do I need to start screening for prostate cancer? Basically, if you are a MALE above 50, talk to your doctor about screening. Most importantly, if you are African American or have family history of men with cancer in their prostate, you should consider screening starting at 45 years old.
If you are a male above 50 years old, are African-American or have a family member with history of prostate cancer, you should visit a urologist. Early detection is key! Studies show that more than 98% of prostate cancers are curable if detected and treated early. If it is detected late, the chance of survival beyond 5 years can be as low as 26%.
In our next post I will be talking about how prostate cancer can be treated. If you are looking for a urologist, come visit us. We are eager to meet you and help you retake the reigns of your life. You are in control!
This article was authored by Dr. Jonathan Clavell. Dr. Clavell is an urologist who specializes in men’s health including erectile dysfunction, low testosterone, Peyronie’s Disease and BPH.