With a different health “awareness” month coming at you every month, it can become tempting to tune out. Or, you can tune in, and give yourself the opportunity in those 30 or so days to think, learn and reflect on your body, your health and your life.
This month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month takes center stage, and Any Lab Test Now wants to share some important and encouraging information.
- One in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
- One in 41 men will die of prostate cancer.
- Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men.
Who is “Most “At Risk?
- African-American men
- Older men (the average age of diagnosis is 66)
- Men with a family history
The Good News: (for those who are diagnosed and treated)
- The 5-year relative survival rate is 99 percent.
- The 10-year relative survival rate is 98 percent.
- The 15-year relative survival rate is 96 percent.
It may be tempting to look at some of those stats and risk factors and think prostate cancer won’t affect or harm you. But with a cancer that is often asymptomatic, a simple lab test called the prostate-specific antigen, or PSA test , is the only way to catch the cancer in its early stages. The five-year survival rate in distant stage prostate cancer is a mere 29 percent.
As actor/comedian Ben Stiller, a Caucasian with no family history, found out at age 46, early prevention is key to those favorable survival rates.
“Taking the PSA test saved my life. Literally,” said Stiller in a first-person account of his journey into the world of being a cancer patient and cancer survivor.
To Test or Not to Test
The decision about if or when to do the PSA screening test has come under intense scrutiny, with varying opinions. For instance, the American Cancer Society recommends discussing the test at these stages:
- Men at age 50, who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.
- Men at age 45, who are at high risk of developing prostate cancer. (African-Americans and men who have a first-degree relative, father, brother or son, diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 65 or younger).
- Men at age 40, who are at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).
Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Sr., took PSA tests for years before he was diagnosed at 55 years old. As an African-American with a strong family history (four uncles died of the disease), Griffey knew he was high-risk and knew early detection would be key to his survival. He was right. He is now a vocal advocate of PSA testing.
However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated its guidelines and recommends:
- Men aged 55–69 discuss possible screening with their doctor.
- Men aged 70 and older are advised against routine screening.
Potential reasons for not screening include false positives and over-treatment of what is commonly a slow-growing cancer, which could result in unwanted side effects like incontinence or impotence. However, a more common form of treatment is now being referred to as “watchful waiting.” This active surveillance combines regular PSA testing and digital rectal exams with close monitoring of men with a localized, low-grade prostate cancer, that may never progress to the point of needing more invasive treatments.
At Any Lab Test Now, we encourage men to take control of their health. Our simple PSA can provide results in a matter of days. This test provides valuable information that every man can take to their doctor for a thoughtful discussion about living their longest, healthiest life.