It’s among the scariest words men face: You have prostate cancer. My father and my uncle both heard them and had their lives changed forever. That’s why in September, National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, it is so important for men to get a screening if they fit into the recommended age guidelines. Just as women across the nation use “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” as a reminder to schedule their annual mammography, us men should use the month of September as an impetus to schedule our screenings as well.
The purposes of National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month are:
- Increasing public awareness of the importance of prostate health.
- Providing easily accessible prostate health screenings.
- Educating about risk factors and symptoms of prostate-related diseases; and
- Advocating for further research on prostate health issues.
September was first designated National Prostate Health Month by the American Foundation for Urological Disease, now known as the Urology Care Foundation, in 1999. Its original intent was concentrating on making the public better informed about prostate health issues.
In 2001, Senate Resolution 138 sponsored by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) endorsed the week and affirmed that Prostate Health Month would be observed annually. In a 2003 presidential proclamation, President George W. Bush voiced his support for the month, but instead of designating it to be for prostate health in general, he specifically named the month “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
We frequently hear the word screening related to prostate cancer and other illnesses. There’s a simple but critical reason for it. We have enough experience and medical options to combat prostate cancer, especially when we detect it early. Early detection significantly raises the possibility of a positive outcome.
Generally, early cases of prostate cancer don’t display any symptoms. But when it reaches an advanced stage, some symptoms can include:
- Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction or ED).
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones.
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.
Something other than prostate cancer is more likely to cause these problems. For example, trouble urinating is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a noncancerous growth of the prostate. Still, it’s important to tell your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms so you can have access to the appropriate treatment.
But it all begins with an examination by your doctor. The doctor might recommend a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital exam. If often has to do with age. While the recommended age range varies, most organizations generally recommend a screening for men between 40 and 70. Your safest approach is to have a discussion with your doctor about screening and when a PSA test is advisable. Your health professional is the person best suited to offer counsel and treatment, if necessary. The one behavior that you must avoid, especially if you are in the suggested age for a screening, is failing to act or avoiding a conversation with your doctor.
Women are important in this process too. If you have someone close to you — a husband, father, brother, uncle, any male who is dear to you — and you sense or know of their reluctance for a screening, be as insistent as you must, urging them to visit the doctor. Make the appointment for them and go with them if you can. You might save a life. And don’t delay. This is National Prostate Cancer Month, and the time to make an appointment is now.
That’s my take, what’s yours?
With any disease, particularly cancer, misinformation, and myths might influence what you do (or do not). These two authoritative sites are excellent resources to inform yourself and hopefully lead to a healthier life.
Prostate Cancer by The Numbers:
- About 164,690 new cases of prostate cancer. (Est. 2018)
- About 29,430 deaths from prostate cancer. (Est. 2018)
- About 1 man in 9 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime.
- Prostate cancer develops mainly in older men and in African Americans. About 6 cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.
- Prostate Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer. About 1 man in 41 will die of prostate cancer.
- While it is a serious disease, most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.
Note: Statistics about prostate cancer are from the National Cancer Institute or the Centers for Disease Control.