Guys, as time passes, heed prostate advice
Submitted by: Marc C. Gittelman, M.D.
Submitted on: August 2, 2005
Q: I keep hearing about the PSA test and I am concerned about prostate cancer. Does every man need to be tested?
A: Prostate Cancer is the No. 1 cancer in men over the age of 50. While there is no need for alarm, it is important that all men over 50 be tested yearly by their clinician with a digital rectal exam and a routine screening blood test called a PSA. Men who are of African-American heritage or have a family history of prostate cancer (father, grandfather, uncle, brother, etc.) have double the risk of eventually being diagnosed with prostate cancer, so they need to especially careful and should consider seeing their clinician beginning at age 45.
Men are especially guilty of not seeing their physician on a routine basis, and one of the common excuses I hear is “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to testing for a disease that can be potentially life threatening. The truth is that early- and even intermediate-stage prostate cancer has absolutely no symptoms. The man with early stage prostate cancer will not even have urinary complaints.
You may have heard that the PSA blood test may not be ideal for diagnosing prostate cancer. While considerable research is underway to find better tests, the reality is that it is still the best test we have available for diagnosing men at an early age. An abnormal PSA or rectal exam would lead to a visit to a urologist who would perform a simple in-office biopsy to determine whether prostate cancer is present.
If the prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early enough stage, the chance of complete cure is excellent. While each patient must be evaluated individually, usual treatments include radiation therapy (external or internal), or surgical therapy. More advanced cases are typically treated with hormonal therapy, which typically can control the cancer for a significant period of time.