OP-ED: September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
By: Mrs. Brenda Fleischmann
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
The calendar fills up quickly in September as families return to a packed routine after quieter summer days. Unfortunately, your health might take a backseat to your busy schedule. So make a note on your calendar that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and remind yourself—or the men in your life—about the importance of a healthy prostate.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer, and an estimated 161,360 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with the disease in 2017. In Tennessee alone, about 2,830 men will be diagnosed and an estimated 550 will die of the disease.
Although all men are at risk for prostate cancer, African-Americans have a much higher rate of prostate cancer than white men and are more than twice as likely to die of the disease. A family history of the disease also puts you at increased risk, as does getting older (you are more likely to develop the disease after age 50).
Symptoms are not common in the early stages of prostate cancer, but as it progresses, you may experience difficulty urinating, weakened or interrupted urine flow, blood in the urine or pain while urinating. If you experience any of these symptoms, schedule a visit with your health care professional immediately.
Early detection of prostate cancer can save lives, but testing also comes with risks. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) blood tests are not 100 percent accurate and may prompt unnecessary treatment (and subsequent side effects) of cancers that might not have ever advanced to a harmful stage. If you are a man age 50 or older (age 45 for African-American men or those with close relatives who have had the disease), talk to a health care professional about the potential benefits and harms of screening and then determine if it is best for you.
If you and your doctor do decide you should be screened, testing may be done every one or two years. Men with prostate cancer usually have elevated PSA levels, though high PSA levels can also be caused by several non-cancerous conditions, such as an enlarged prostate (BPH). There are also tests that can better distinguish prostate cancers that are likely to be aggressive and those that would likely not cause harm, which can help guide treatment decisions.
Don’t neglect your health as the hectic fall season approaches. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and not smoking can reduce your risk of prostate and many other cancers. To learn more about prostate cancer, visit preventcancer.org/prostatecancer.
Brenda Fleischmann is a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Program, and the spouse of U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.