Being small and out of the way, a man’s prostate gets zero attention if it’s quiet. The prostate is so rarely discussed that many men say “prostrate” (lying down) when they mean prostate (the maker of seminal fluid for transporting sperm). Sometimes it’s called the forgotten gland. So, in September, we observe Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Maybe that “forgotten” bit is wishful ignorance, because prostate cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death among American men. About one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and even that number understates the threat, because many prostate cancer cases go undiagnosed. It has been said that, “If a man lives long enough, he’s going to get prostate cancer.” That might be a slight overstatement, but it might not.
It’s easy to get distracted when you look up recommendations for how often and at what age a man should get screened for prostate cancer. It begins at 40, 45, or 50, depending on your risk factors. So, finding out about those risk factors in a talk with your family physician is a step to take right away.
As for tests, there is a blood test for PSA, a prostate-specific antigen that serves as a signal. When PSA is elevated, it’s time to look more closely for cancer in the prostate.
The other common form of prostate exam is digital. In this case “digital” does not mean electronic, but rather a DRE, digital-rectal-exam. Maybe you think you don’t know your physician that well, but you should, and a little embarrassment is nothing to die over.
Know Your Risk Factors
Another apparent complication is that prostate cancer appears in many types. Some are slow growing that guys just outlive them. Others are aggressive and deadly. Finding out which kind you may have is vital, and, as in all cancers, early detection is the greatest factor in survival.
Personal risk factors for aggressive prostate cancer include a poor diet low in vegetables, obesity, and lack of exercise. Yes, these sound like “the usual suspects” connected with all kinds of health hazards, but look on the bright side: fix them and you’ve fixed a lot. Other risk factors are harder to control, such as being tall, consuming a high-calcium diet, Agent Orange exposure, and, of course, family history. African-American men live with a higher risk of prostate cancer.Awareness is the beginning of protecting yourself from prostate cancer. Just call us at 843-815-6468 and let’s make an appointment for your screening.