For men, having a yearly prostate exam probably isn’t on their list of “fun things to do.” However, this simple and quick exam could save their life.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men in Kentucky, with almost 14,000 diagnosed between 1999 and 2003. In the United States as a whole, prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, and most cases are diagnosed in men over the age of 40. African-Americans are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer.
Early diagnosis critical
If prostate cancer is found early, the survival rate is almost 100 percent. Men should begin getting yearly prostate exams at age 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer and minority men age 45 or older should have yearly screenings.
Because there are often no early warning signs or symptoms, the only way to detect the disease in its early stages is through a simple blood test, the PSA (prostate-specific antigen), and a digital rectal exam (DRE).
Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen in your blood. PSA is a protein produced by the cells of the prostate gland, and the PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. If you have a very high PSA level, or if it creeps up significantly over time, it may be a sign of prostate cancer.
Your doctor will also perform a digital rectal exam to feel for abnormalities in your prostate. Your doctor will feel for any bumps or hard places in the prostate, which could signify cancer. If you have yearly screenings and either one of these test results becomes abnormal, any cancer you might have has probably been found at an early, more treatable stage.
Encourage your man
Women can play an important part in making sure the men in their life have yearly prostate exams. Most women don’t like “bugging” their men, but if a man you care about is dragging his feet about getting a prostate exam, you may need to take the initiative. Encourage your father, husband, or brother to get checked and tell them you want them around for a long time to come.
The University of Kentucky Hospital Markey Cancer Center offers free screenings throughout the year. Free prostate cancer screenings will be held on Wednesday, September 20. Registration is required.
To qualify for screening, men must be age 40 or older and must never have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Because of their increased risk for the disease, men with a family history of prostate cancer and minority men age 35 or older also are eligible for the free screening.
To register or for more information, call UK HealthCare at (859) 257-4488 or (866) 340-4488.
For more information on prostate cancer on the Web, go to www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu and type in “prostate cancer” in the “Search UK HealthCare” box at the top. Or go on-line to www.prostatecancerfoundation.org.