ACS urges mento get checked for prostate cancer
SIKESTON - This year the American Cancer Society estimates 198,100 men in the United States will find out they have prostate cancer.
Of them, 31,500 will die.
Although the ACS is constantly trying to get the message out about the importance of getting check-ups, not everyone is heeding the warning. So, the organization spends one week a year devoting all its energies to try to persuade men to listen.
During the recent Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, the ACS urges men age 50 and older to have physical examinations, be responsible for their health and learn more about the disease.
Prostate cancer starts in the prostate gland, which is about the size of a walnut, located below the bladder and in front of the rectum. Although it is uncertain what causes it, it is believed there may be a link to certain genes that causes some men to get prostate cancer. Other risk factors include age, race, diet and having a family history of the disease.
This type of cancer is the most common type found in American men, other than skin cancer. The ACS reports prostate cancer is about twice as common among African-American men as it is among white American men.
African American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world. An estimated one out of every African American man will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. Although it is curable in African American men, it is typically diagnosed later than it is in white men. Therefore, the death rate for black men is much higher.
Signs of prostate cancer include weak or interrupted urine flow, inability to urinate and difficulty starting or stopping the urine flow. Other signs may include the need to urinate frequently, blood in the urine, pain or burning during urination and continual pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.
The ACS wants men to realize the importance of early detection. Eighty percent of all prostate cancers are discovered in the local and regional stages. According to the organization the five-year relative survival rate for patients whose tumors are diagnosed at these stages is 89 percent and 63 percent survive at least 10 years. If the cancer is found before it has spread outside the prostate, the five-year relative survival rage is 100 percent.
If the cancer has spread to tissues near the prostate, the survival rate is 94 percent. And if the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body when it is found, about 31 percent will live at least five years.
The problem, said Robin Stoner, cancer control specialist for the ACS Heartland Division in Sikeston, is persuading men to have regular prostate examinations. The reasons for not doing so vary. Sometimes there is reluctance due to a lack of knowledge about prostate cancer and the need for annual screenings. There are also cultural barriers and fear that masculinity will be threatened.
"It may seem that prostate cancer has been more prevalent in recent years. Due to a variety of tests, doctors are finding prostate cancer at an earlier stage, even before men have symptoms of the disease. So this may seem like there are a lot more cases than ever before," said Stoner. "However, when the disease is found early there may be more effective treatment options to choose from. There may be more cases diagnosed, but the number of deaths from prostate cancer has gone down, suggesting that this is a result of screening, although this has not been proven."
Screening for prostate cancer involves a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test as well as a digital rectal exam (DRE). The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood, which can rise with enlargement of the prostate or possible cancerous conditions. This can aid in the detection of prostate cancer when it is most treatable because often, in the early stages, men show no symptoms of the disease.
The ACS recommends that beginning at age 50, the prostate-specific antigen test and the digital rectal exam should be given annually to men who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years. Men at high risk for prostate cancer, including African American men or men who have a history of prostate cancer in close family members, should begin testing at age 45.
The American Cancer Society is committed to leading the fight against prostate cancer. As of Jan. 1, 2001, the ACS is funding 80 grants totaling $25,708,000, which includes multiple-year awards to support prostate cancer research.
For more information about prostate cancer call the local ACS office at 471-1823 or the 24-hour help line at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit their web site at www.cancer.org