September: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Well since it is September, it is time for all of us to focus on Prostate Cancer Awareness. That’s right, with the beginning of Fall, school starting, football season launching, baseball commencing, Labor Day, and the turkey right around the corner, it is only right that we kick it all off by celebrating all of the men in our lives. A good way to help them live longer, happier, and enjoy life well into their golden years is by remembering that Septmeber is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
So, let’s talk about prostate cancer.
Some quick facts: 1 in 6 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. African American men have a higher chance of prostate cancer, almost 1 in 4. If prostate cancer is caught in the early stages, it is nearly 100% curable. Early prostate cancer has no warning symptons, hence why screening is so important. The most important contributing fact is age. Although only 1 in 10,000 under age 40 will be diagnosed, the rate shoots up to 1 in 39 for ages 40 to 59, and 1 in 14 for ages 60 to 69. More then 70% of men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year are over the age of 65. There is some evidence that a diet higher in animal fat may contribute to the incidence of prostate cancer. Men with a single first-degree relative—father, brother or son—with a history of prostate cancer are twice as likely to develop the disease, while those with two or more relatives are nearly four times as likely to be diagnosed. The risk is even higher if the affected family members were diagnosed at a young age, with the highest risk seen in men whose family members were diagnosed before age 60.
So what is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate makes and stores a component of semen and is located near the bladder and the rectum. The prostate surrounds part of the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder. A healthy prostate is about the size of a walnut. If the prostate grows too large, the flow of urine can be slowed or stopped. (Here is a diagram of the prostate.)
Screening for prostate cancer can be performed quickly and easily in a physician’s office using two tests: the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test, and the digital rectal exam (DRE).
PSA is a protein produced by the prostate and released in very small amounts into the bloodstream. When there’s a problem with the prostate, such as when prostate cancer develops and grows, more and more PSA is released, until it reaches a level where it can be easily detected in the blood.During a PSA test, a small amount of blood is drawn from the arm, and the level of PSA is measured. PSA levels under 4 ng/mL are usually considered “normal,” results over 10 ng/mL are usually considered “high,” and results between 4 and 10 ng/mL are usually considered “intermediate.”However, PSA can also be elevated if other prostate problems are present, such as BPH or prostatitis, and some men with prostate cancer have “low” levels of PSA. This is why both the PSA and DRE are used to detect the presence of disease. The digital rectal exam, or a DRE, is when the physician inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and examines the prostate for any irregularities in size, shape, and texture. Often, the DRE can be used by urologists to help distinguish between prostate cancer and non-cancerous conditions such as BPH. (BPH is a benign enlargement of the prostate that may inhibit urination.)The American Cancer Society recommends that both the PSA and DRE should be offered annually, beginning at age 50, to men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy. Men at high risk, such as African American men and men with a strong family history of one or more first-degree relatives diagnosed at an early age, should begin testing at age 45.
So for all them men reading this, and for the women and children out there that have an important male in their lives, please remind them to make an appointment to get their annual check up, and to be screened for prostate cancer. Remember, the earlier we catch it, the better the chance for a complete cure. 
If you like to know more, or have other questions, please feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM

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