When it comes to the question of screening for prostate cancer, that’s what it really boils down to: Do you want to know or not? Are you proactive about your health or do you have an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude?
Even for the experts, to screen or not to screen can be a complicated question. Results of a study of 162,000 European men, followed over 13 years, were published in The Lancet on August 6, 2014. The study found that screening via a simple blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) reduced deaths from prostate cancer by about 21 percent.
Sounds like a vote for getting screened, right?
The “but” comes when you consider how prostate cancer operates. In some men, prostate cancer is so slow growing that it may never cause symptoms or pose a major threat to your health. Is it worth it to treat and experience the side effects resulting from treatment for a cancer that isn’t likely to kill you?
“Our goal is to keep prostate cancer from killing men,” said Elisabeth Heath, M.D., director of Prostate Cancer Research at Karmanos Cancer Institute and professor of Oncology and Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Since we know that men with aggressive prostate cancer have the best chance of survival when we catch it and treat it early in the game, we’re in favor of screening.”
Who should get screened and when?
Dr. Heath recommends that guys talk to their health care provider about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening. African American men age 45 and older, and men of European descent who are 50 and older are at increased risk of prostate cancer, as are men with a family history of prostate cancer and men who eat a high fat diet.
The PSA blood test and the digital rectal exam are the two most common tests that look for signs of prostate issues.
It’s important to understand that not every man who tests positive for prostate cancer requires treatment. As we age, many of us harbor cancer cells that will never cause symptoms or impact our health.
How do you lower your risk?
Talk with an expert who can help you evaluate the results of your PSA and digital rectal exam along with any potential risk factors such as ethnicity and family history. Some men found to have slow growing cancers choose to closely monitor their condition with the help of their doctor.
While research is still being done to understand how to lower prostate cancer risk, you can’t go wrong reducing the amount of fatty foods in your diet and pumping up the fruits and vegetables.
Want to learn more about prostate cancer?
Watch and listen as Dr. Heath covers the basics.
Register for our free Prostate Cancer Symposium, schedule for Saturday, September 20 to find out about the latest treatments and research.