When considering issues affecting the health of men, the second most vexatious foe, after cardiovascular diseases, is the all-too-common prostate cancer. Not only does it strike often; it is also the second most frequent cause of cancer death in men. Despite its prominence, and despite millions of dollars spent on prostate research, there remains a lot of controversy about how to screen for the illness, how to diagnose it, and when and how to treat prostate cancer.
September is prostate cancer awareness, for when the lay press reported some of the new perspectives we now entertain on the subject. The prehospital professionals serving the Westerly/Stonington region are currently raising donations for prostate research thru their Movember @ Sons moustache campaign. Consider supporting both worthy causes; the ambulance teams and prostate cancer research.
Why would a man NOT want or need to know if he has prostate cancer? A generation ago the answer was simple; early detection and early intervention seemed to make sense. Most prostate cancers grow and spread so slowly that if you did nothing about them they would never result in symptoms or affect longevity. So a 50-year-old with a typical prostate cancer would be better off worrying about his blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors than his cancer; the cancer won’t hurt him. He probably would be better off not even knowing he was carrying this cancer. Less worry and stress; sign me up!
Consequently, current trends consider the possibility that a man’s life journey may be measurably better if he is unburdened by the awareness he is letting cancer coexist with him, unchallenged.
Radiation, surgery, or hormone therapy each carry risk of complications such as incontinence, impotence, or worse.
The reality is there are different types of prostate cancer (called grades). High grade cancers are aggressive and nasty, so early detection of these ones might save lives. Unfortunately, to tell if you have a slow lazy tumor or a terrifying killer
requires a piece of the tumor under a microscope.
The experts have decided to recommend screening to begin at an age dictated by the age and genetic risk of the individual patient. Of course, each of us may decide for ourselves when to be screened (a needle and a digit). Do not count on symptoms to guide you, as most symptoms develop late, so they become the albatross heralding a lost gamble.
So, if you’re an adult male, go discuss the issue with your doctor.