Prostate Cancer is the most common cancer among men today, with more than 2 million men in the United States counting themselves as survivors. Samir Shirodkar, M.D., a urologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital, offers insights that every man (and woman) should know about prostate cancer.
- Your family history matters.
Family history is one of the most important things to understand and communicate with your physician when it comes to prostate cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of developing prostate cancer more than doubles if a father or brother has a history of prostate cancer.
- The longer you live, the higher your risk.
The chance of developing prostate cancer rapidly increases after the age of 65. Dr. Shirodkar recommends patients begin having prostate screenings between 50-55 years of age, unless they have a family history of prostate cancer. It is recommended that men with a family history of prostate cancer begin screenings in their 40s.
- Different races have higher occurrences of prostate cancer.
African American men are nearly 2.4 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than men from other ethnicities. Among the 10 leading causes of cancer death in African American men, prostate cancer is second only behind lung cancer and is the fourth leading cause of death among African American men over age 45.
- Listen to your loved ones.
Even though women cannot be diagnosed with prostate cancer, women can help the men in their lives stay healthy. Many men have a tendency to delay visits to the doctor or don’t make the time for yearly check-ups. However, this can be catastrophic to their health. Dr. Shirodkar has witnessed many men come in for their yearly check-ups because their loved one encouraged them to do so.
- Early detection is life-saving.
If detected at an early stage – meaning the cancer is confined only to the prostate – nearly 100 percent of men are disease free within five years. As the cancer spreads, it can still be treatable but may not be curable. While symptoms can occasionally appear, many times the cancer is advanced by the time symptoms like lower back pain or blood in urine onset. Keeping up with annual physical exams will help detect prostate cancer much earlier than waiting until symptoms are noticeable.
- Schedule your annual physical.
Given the importance of early detection, scheduling an annual physical is the first step in preventative health. Annual physicals can be scheduled with a primary care physician and include blood pressure screenings, cholesterol screenings and a prostate exam. If your physician detects any unusual lumps or growths within the prostate, they will refer you to a urologist for further screening, which likely will include a PSA test. The PSA test is a general blood test that measures protein that is made in the prostate. If the protein is elevated, prostate cancer may be present. Dr. Shirodkar has seen dozens of patients who were referred quickly by primary care physicians, underwent a PSA test and ultimately saved their lives by catching the prostate cancer early.
For more information about prostate cancer, visit http://www.memorialhermann.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/.