Men’s Health Month: Time to Talk Prostate Cancer
November 14, 2019 by Gary Goldberg, MD
November, also known as Movember, is Men’s Health Awareness Month. Across the globe, men grow a “Mo for a Bro” or do “No-Shave November” to raise awareness for prostate cancer and men’s health.
Men need a Movember to remind them to be screened for prostate cancer.
Did you know roughly 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime? According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men other than skin cancer. And prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Still most men diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it. More than 3.1 million American men are prostate cancer survivors, according to the American Cancer Society.
When prostate cancer is detected early, it’s often more treatable and we have more treatment options.
As a urologist at Mankato Clinic, I recommend routine screening for prostate cancer. Screenings are tests to find cancer before symptoms show up. Before the screening, we discuss the pros and cons of screening.
We know men’s risk for prostate cancer increases with age, particularly after age 50. I recommend all men age 50 and older get a baseline prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test as well as a digital rectal exam. African American men and men with a family history of prostate cancer should begin this screening at age 40. My recommendation is based on American Urological Association guidelines.
The PSA test measures prostate-specific antigen levels in a man’s blood. The test is a guide to identify a man’s risk for developing prostate cancer. If a man has a high PSA level, he has a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Just because the PSA level is high does not mean a man has prostate cancer. This is just one screening tool.
For men at high risk, it’s a good idea to see a urologist regularly. The PSA test is also very important for urologists to help identify significant and aggressive cancers. Not all prostate cancers act the same. Some can be slow growing while others can be extremely aggressive.
A digital rectal exam is also advised. In this exam, a doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland. We are looking for any bumps or hard areas that might be cancer. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s over quickly. And it can save a man’s life!
Men usually don’t experience symptoms in early stages of prostate cancer. That’s why screening is so important. Advanced prostate cancer can cause: problems urinating, a slow or weak stream, the need to urinate more often; blood in urine or semen; trouble getting an erection; weakness or numbness in legs or feet or loss of bladder or bowel control. Contact your health care provider if you notice these symptoms.
Have a conversation with your primary care provider to see when you should begin prostate cancer screening.