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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. What are some of the facts about prostate cancer, and what do you and your family need to know? Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men across the United States, affecting nearly 165,000 individuals each year with a new diagnosis.
Fortunately, the possibility of surviving prostate cancer is very high, with 98 percent of those diagnosed likely to be alive five years after diagnosis. Currently, it’s estimated that more than 3 million men are living with prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is a cancer that only affects men, as the prostate gland exists only in the male body.
What other factors put men at risk for developing prostate cancer?
Age: As a man ages, the risk of developing prostate cancer increases. In fact, most prostate cancers are found in men over the age of 65.
Race: African-American and Caribbean men have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer than Caucasian men for reasons that are not yet well understood.
Family history: Having a father or brother with prostate cancer doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer. There are also a number of lifestyle factors that may contribute to the development of prostate cancer, such as a diet high in red meat and dairy, obesity, smoking, and exposure to chemicals, such as Benzene.
Prostate cancer can vary a great deal in how it behaves. In fact, not all men with prostate cancer need treatment, but all do need to have close monitoring. For those men for whom treatment is recommended, there have been a number of advances in prostate cancer treatment over the past several years. For example, there are new radiation treatments that decrease the side effects from radiation.
Wilson Medical Center has a state of the art center for radiation treatments, Wilson Radiation Oncology, under the direction of Dr. Peggy Metts, who offers external beam radiation, IMRT, SBRT and brachytherapy. In addition, recent changes in surgical techniques spare nerves and lessen the long-term effects from surgery.
Prostate cancer is a cancer that can be encouraged to grow by hormones that are made routinely in the male body. Treatment can also involve new anti-hormone treatments that keep men without evidence of active prostate cancer for longer periods of time. Despite the excellent prognosis for those diagnosed with prostate cancer and all of the recent advances, some men will develop incurable disease. Consequently, research into yet still more effective treatments continue. In 2016, the National Cancer Institute provided $241 million dollars dedicated to prostate cancer research.
What’s a man to do? Talk to your health care provider about ways to decrease your risk of dying from prostate cancer, such as prostate cancer screening, especially if you have any of the risk factors mentioned. If you are considering prostate cancer screening, you should make informed decisions based on available information and discuss the possible benefits, risks and limits of prostate cancer screening with your healthcare team.
If you have any concerns regarding prostate cancer and its risks, symptoms and screening, have a discussion with your primary care provider.
If you would like to be connected with a primary care provider call Wilson Medical Center’s Physician Referral Line at 1-800-424-DOCS (3627) today.
For more information about prostate cancer, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/ and www.pcf.org. Linda Sutton, M.D., is the Medical Director of the Duke Cancer Network and Kerri Dalton MSN, RN, AOCNS is the Director of Clinical Practice & Education Duke Cancer Network