By: Dr. Michael Meshad
In recent years, several high-profile sports figures, entertainers and politicians have come forward to talk publicly about their battles with prostate cancer. Former New York Yankees and current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Senator Bob Dole, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and musical artist Harry Belafonte are just a few of the men who have shared their stories and dramatically helped raise awareness of the disease and the importance of early detection.
While the efforts of these men have helped, we still have a long way to go. Prostate cancer is a very serious disease that will affect one out of every six men during his lifetime. It is the most common type of cancer in men and is the second deadliest cancer among all American men, behind lung cancer. For reasons still unknown, African American men have a higher than average risk of developing this disease and it is frequently in a more aggressive form. The good news, however, is that prostate cancer is treatable, especially if caught early. In fact, it has a 99 percent survival rate if detected before the cancer leaves the prostate.
That’s why increasing awareness of prostate cancer is so important. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time set aside to educate men about this disease and encourage them to speak with their healthcare providers about the benefits and risks of screening. Prostate cancer screening can help find the disease in its early stages when treatment is most likely to be effective.
The American Cancer Society suggests the following guidelines for prostate screenings:
- Age 50 for men at average risk of prostate cancer.
- Age 45 for men at high risk- including African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer younger than the age of 65.
- Age 40 for men at very high risk- including those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer younger than the age of 65.
Every day we learn more about prostate cancer and improve our ability to prevent, detect, treat and ultimately cure the disease. These developments are the result of extensive laboratory research and detailed clinical trials that provide us with scientific data to extend our knowledge of what works, how it works, and how to make it work better.
At Southern Cancer Center, research is a key component of our mission and we play a major role in the development and discovery of new therapies. Over the past several years, our oncologists and specially trained research staff have participated in a number of practice changing prostate cancer trials, helping further scientific knowledge about this disease and its treatment. Through these clinical trials, and a multitude of other clinical trials for various cancers, we have been able to bring the latest therapeutic options directly to the patients in our community.
Discovering new methods and best practices in oncology is truly exciting for all of us who are focused on helping men and their families in our community win the battle against prostate cancer. As we continue to forge ahead to find new weapons against this disease, we hope all men will help us in our fight by speaking with their healthcare providers about what screening is best for them.