For men, there's always been a definite schedule to follow when it comes to health care screenings. For example, guidelines call for a man who's between 50 and 65 years of age to have a weight and blood-pressure check every year, a blood-sugar test (if there are risk factors for heart disease), a cholesterol check every one to three years and a screening for colon cancer every five to 10 years.
Prostate Cancer Screening
Until recently, the recommendations for prostate cancer screening were just as clear-cut: Males with an average risk for the disease were advised to have an annual blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening starting at age 50. But in 2009, the American Urological Association recommended that men consider having a baseline PSA test at age 40, with the frequency of future testing determined by the patient's doctor on an individual basis. The first step men can take to protect themselves against prostate cancer is to discuss screening with their doctor. Have you discussed prostate cancer screening with your doctor?
So What Are Men To Do?
"First, they should discuss the facts about prostate screening with their doctor," says Long Beach Memorial urologist Atreya Dash, M.D. "Screening for prostate cancer consists of an exam that checks the gland for abnormalities, and a PSA test that looks for elevated levels of a certain protein. However, higher-than-normal PSA levels can also result from other conditions, including an enlarged or inflamed prostate. This means that a number of men with positive PSA tests will not have cancer, but will appear to be candidates for a biopsy based on test results."
If cancer is diagnosed, several treatment options are presented to the patient by various specialists at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Memorial, reflecting a careful risk-benefit analysis combined with consideration of the patient's needs. "We're committed to fully discussing all options—not in an abstract sense, but in the context of who the patient is," says Dr. Dash. In addition to a man's age and health, other factors that are considered include the tumor's aggressiveness and treatment side effects. Every patient at TCI is treated as an individual, with a treatment plan tailored to his specific condition.
Many prostate cancers grow very slowly and aren't life-threatening. Some never need treatment. Watchful waiting—careful observation of the tumor over time—is often an option, especially for older patients. But for young men, treatment may be the best choice, even if the tumor is growing slowly.
Reducing Your Risk
Although researchers haven't yet discovered how to prevent prostate cancer, men can take certain steps to reduce their risk of developing the disease and other health problems. Some healthy living tips include the following:
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Exercise daily for 30 minutes.
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain products.
- Limit your intake of processed and high-fat foods.
- Increase your consumption of foods and beverages such as green tea that are rich in antioxidants.
- Practice portion control when eating higher calorie foods.
- Visit your doctor annually for a regular checkup—for a physician referral call.
A prostatectomy—removal of part or all of the prostate—is the most common treatment for tumors confined to the gland. At TCI, this type of surgery is increasingly performed using the da Vinci® S. Surgical System. Guided by the surgeon from a remote control console just a few feet from the operating table, the robot allows a degree of precision that surpasses traditional surgical techniques. For the patient, this means tiny incisions, reduced bleeding, a shorter hospital stay and a faster, less painful recovery.
TCI offers other prostate cancer therapies. Among them are hormone therapy, external radiation and brachytherapy, which involves implanting radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland. "Helping men navigate the complex issue of prostate cancer is a team effort," says Dr. Dash. "Our goal is to defeat the disease."