Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, striking approximately 165,000 men each year with about 30,000 dying of the disease – making it second only to lung cancer as the deadliest cancer in men.
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.
For almost 30 years, doctors have had a powerful weapon in their arsenal for detecting prostate cancer. In addition to the DRE (a physical exam allowing the doctor to feel the prostate), patients can have a simple blood test called a PSA (which stands for prostate specific antigen) 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.
Let others know about the risks of prostate cancer and the potential benefits of screening. Posters, fact sheets, and a social media tool kit, for use at your place of worship, where your work, and for your fraternity or sorority, can all be downloaded for free at the www.
ProstateCancerAwarenessMonth.com web site.
A federally staffed panel of experts, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), makes recommendations about screenings that healthcare providers look to for guidance. At its meeting in May of this year, the Task Force recommended 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 and others at high risk
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.
For younger men, over 30 states require that insurance companies offering health insurance in their state provide coverage for prostate cancer tests. Insurance companies may offer prostate cancer screening in the remaining states, but are not required to do so.
And, know your numbers! When you receive your PSA test results, ask the healthcare provider what your PSA number is, write it down, and compare it against future tests. If the number goes up in future tests, talk to your healthcare provider.
The bottom line? Having an annual prostate exam, including a PSA test, just might save your life. No matter what age you are, that annual PSA test creates a benchmark to judge future tests against.
And ladies, if the men in your life don’t want to make an appointment, do it for them – and drive them to the healthcare provider’s office if you have to.
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.