September is prostate cancer awareness month. While there’s a lot that still remains unclear about the second most common form of cancer for men, gaining awareness and getting screened for this disease is a no-brainer.
WHAT IS PROSTATE CANCER, AND HOW DOES IT AFFECT MEN?
Prostate cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells in the prostate gland, and is most commonly called an adenocarcinoma. It is the second largest type of cancer seen in men, after skin cancer. About 1 in every 7 men is diagnosed with prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 2015 will see 220,800 new cases of this disease. Prostate cancer is mostly seen in older men, with an average diagnosis age of 66. Though, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men (first is lung cancer), the survival rates for men with prostate cancer is quite high. The 5-year survival rate for this cancer is 100%, and the 15-year rate is still 94%, which are relatively good odds.
LESS THAN ONE-THIRD OF PROSTATE CANCER DIAGNOSES REQUIRE TREATMENT
A longitudinal study conducted among older men with low-risk prostate cancer revealed that most cases do not require treatment. The study followed up with 1298 men diagnosed with prostate cancer for a period ranging from less than a year to 18 years. They found that men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer had a low chance of dying due to cancer; death in such men is far more likely due to other causes, like heart disease. Thus monitoring, rather than treatment, is the best option for most men diagnosed with this cancer.
MONITORING REQUIRES HEALTH SCREENINGS
Prostate cancer isn’t always a death sentence, and there’s plenty that can be done to better deal with a positive diagnosis. Other than a general awareness of risk factors and symptoms, health care professionals urge men to get the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. It is a simple blood test that gives an indication of the risk for prostate cancer. Though it isn’t definitive, it could be meaningful when combined with risk factors like age, family and medical history.
Compared to women, men are less likely to seek medical consultation. It is therefore important to spread the word about prostate cancer, especially because it is fairly manageable once detected soon enough.