I am the program manager for Prostate Cancer Awareness/Men's Health over 5 southern Oregon counties. My job is to spread the news about the importance of Prostate Cancer Screening for men between the ages of 40(ish) to 65(ish).
Women's Health gets a tremendous amount of attention while men's health is largely ignored. That is an irritant to me. To quote an oncologist in my office, "It is time for some men's lib in healthcare!".
DID YOU KNOW?
Men are 35% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than women are with breast cancer?
A non-smoking man is more likely to develop prostate cancer than he is to develop colon, bladder, melanoma, lymphoma and kidney cancers combined.
Black men, older men, men who have been exposed to Agent Orange and men with 1st degree relatives (brother, father, son) who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are all at increased risk.
Eating pan-fried meat twice/week increases a man's risk of developing prostate cancer by 40%!
One new case occurs every 2.2 minutes and, though more men die with prostate cancer than from it, a man dies from prostate cancer every 17.5 minutes.
Even with that information and more, the US Task Force has stated that all men should NOT be tested for prostate cancer, presumably because "over treatment is detrimental to men's health".
The fact is, testing is not harmful; unnecessary treatment is harmful. What should be out there on the front page is not to test, but that all prostate cancers do not need to be treated aggressively. In fact, in many cases, watchful surveillance is the best course of action. This doesn't mean that nothing is being done, but that the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) is being monitored to observe any changes as indicators that the tumor is growing or metastasizing.
THE GOOD NEWS-
Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise decreases the risk of a man developing the disease and may increase longevity of those diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Early detection offers more treatment options giving the man more control over the handling of the disease.
When a man should be tested for prostate cancer varies from man to man depending on his risk level. By age 45, men should have already had a discussion about prostate cancer with his healthcare provider. If he is in any of the high risk groups listed above he should discus having a PSA done by age 40. Most of these original PSAs will be used as a baseline number to compare with future tests to watch for upward trending numbers.
Even with a small uptick in PSA numbers it is not necessarily panic time. There are several things that can cause the PSA to increase temporarily including, bike or horseback riding, sexual activity, vigorous exercise, a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE; used for manually checking for signs of prostate cancer) and some medications.
How does prostate cancer affect women? This is your husband/brother/father/friend. Cancer is a devastating disease which robs one and their loved ones of a normal, healthy life. Treatment for prostate cancer can leave a man impotent, with incontinence, with various bowel problems and more.
If we love our husbands we, as women, need to take care of our men and urge them to get the healthcare testing that they need. Most men will not do this on their own. If you love your husband, urge him to talk to his doctor. Go with him and offer your moral support.
Early diagnosis and treatment saves men's lives as well as it does women's. Don't men deserve it, too? I think so and that is why I do what I do. This weekend I am working an event that allows me to talk to men and women about this awful disease. Hopefully, lives will be saved.