It’s counterintuitive that the second-leading cause of cancer death in men is also one of the most manageable when detected early, but this is the reality of prostate cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 220,000 American men (7,500 of them in Georgia) will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. And more than 27,000 Americans will die from the disease in 2015. The good news, though, is that when prostate cancer is detected early, almost 100 percent of men are disease-free five years after their diagnosis.
Prostate cancer, one of the few cancers affecting only men, typically strikes those who are older. In fact, it’s very rare for a man under 40 to be diagnosed with it – only 1 in 10,000. Men over 50 account for 97 percent of all diagnoses. Because of the slow nature of many prostate cancers, treatment for the disease is sometimes different from what’s commonly expected for cancer. Treatment for prostate cancer can range from simply monitoring the condition to such other responses as surgery, radiation or medicines.
Except for skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most prevalent malignancy among men. But it does not receive the attention it deserves, which results in less awareness. Because the disease is so treatable when detected early, it’s imperative that men understand the risk factors and how to ensure early detection so that they can increase their chances of being a prostate cancer survivor.
The first step is understanding your risk of developing the disease. One of every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives, and for African-American men, the numbers are worse. One out of five African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and African-American men are 2.5 times more likely to die from the disease.
The exact cause of prostate cancer has not been pinpointed, which is why it has not been possible to completely prevent it. But there are things that can be done to maintain a healthy lifestyle: regular physical activity, a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight have been linked to a slightly lower risk of developing prostate cancer. Diets that are high in fish or certain vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower) may also reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
The final and most important step to early detection is taking responsibility for your health and having open communication with your physician. This includes ensuring that your physician is aware of your risk factors, especially your family history, so they can make appropriate recommendations for what types of screening you should receive, and when.
We still need more scientific advances. For now, early detection of prostate cancer, plus the appropriate treatments, and close communication between physicians and patients, are required to potentially decrease the 27,000 deaths caused by prostate cancer each year.
Dr. Vahan Kassabian is a urologist at Georgia Urology, Dr. Bradley Carthon is an Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, and Dr. Peter Rossi is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University