Prostate Cancer: A ‘Very Curable Disease’ With Advances in Treatment, Diagnoses
3 min. read
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S., and the second leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer. But the U.S. rate of prostate cancer deaths are on the decline. That’s mostly attributed to the growing list of treatment options and targeted therapies.
Nonetheless, sometimes it takes a celebrity’s diagnosis to put the spotlight on the importance of cancer screenings.
This was thecase recently when Al Roker, the veteran TODAY show co-host and weatherman,announced on the air that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and willbe undergoing surgery to have his prostate removed. Mr. Roker explained that hewanted to make his diagnosis public to make more men aware that 1 in 7African-American men — and 1 in 9 men overall — will be diagnosed withprostate cancer in their lifetime.
Ironically,the American Cancer Society says that 66 is the average age of prostate cancerdiagnosis — the same age as Mr. Roker.
“It’s agood news-bad news kind of thing,” Mr. Roker stated. “Good news is wecaught it early. Not great news is that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m goingto be taking some time off to take care of this.”
For men over50, there have been significant advances in diagnosing and treating prostatecancer, including drug and radiation therapies, and a range of targetedstrategies that spare patients of serious side effects.
“If youget diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s not the end of the world,” said Ahmed Eldefrawy, M.D., a urologic oncologist at Miami Cancer Institute. Dr. Eldefrawy specializes intreating cancers of the male reproductive organs and male and female urinarytract, including bladder, kidney, testicular adrenal and prostate cancers.“It’s a very curable disease. And with the current treatments we have,patients recover extremely well.”
Men ataverage risk should start getting screened for prostate cancer by the age of50. That includes the digital rectal exam performed by a primary carephysician. The doctor feels your prostate for hard, lumpy, or abnormal areas.If a suspicious lump or area is detected, your doctor will recommend furthertesting.
A secondtest that is performed during checkups is the prostate-specific antigen, orPSA, blood test. Most men without prostate cancer have PSA levels under 4 ng/mLof blood. When prostate cancer develops, the PSA level often goes above 4.Still, a level below 4 is not a guarantee that a man doesn’t have cancer.
Men with afamily history of prostate cancer, especially a father or sibling, should bescreened much earlier than the age of 50. Consult with your doctor about anyfamily history of cancer and your screening options.
“Geneticprostate cancer runs in families, so anyone with a family history of prostatecancer should be should start the screening early, and especially if the familyhistory is an aggressive prostate cancer or a family member who died fromprostate cancer,” explains Dr. Eldefrawy. “This is something anyoneshould be concerned with, and the screening should start very early.”
Prostatecancer is rare in men younger than 40, but the risk rises rapidly after age 50.About 6 in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65, says theAmerican Cancer Society. And, as Mr. Roker pointed out, prostate cancerdevelops more often in African-American men.
Some studieshave indicated that prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) may belinked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, but other studies have notfound such a link.
Leading-edgesurgeries using fast-evolving technologies are available to men with most typesof prostate cancer. The multimodal approach, or a combination of therapies,have provided new hope for prostate cancer patients — and contributed to notonly a declining death rate but a higher quality of life after treatment.
“Wedon’t even talk much about the cancer part of it; we talk about the quality oflife part of it — the sexual function and the continence,” explains Dr.Eldefrawy. “I have not seen a patient with incontinence from treatment forprostate in a long time because the outcomes are very good. Now, we focus onthe quality of life. So if you happen to be diagnosed with prostate cancer,it’s definitely not the end of the world. And you still have many years to live— a full life. That’s my message to prostate cancer patients.”
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