Calling All Women: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

My favorite month is here so you know what that means: prostate cancer talk all month long. It’s a time to listen up and study up on all there is to know about preventing, detecting and treating prostate cancer. This month, my message goes out to women. I say this because you know as well as I do that women have the power to make us act. They read all the latest news and blogs, they talk to their friends and their doctors, and they prod us along.  My message is simple: women, do whatever it takes to get your husband, boyfriend, father and/or brother to the doctor this month. And while you’re at it, here’s a “honey-do” list ready for you to hand over. This list highlights the prostate cancer basics we all should know: Learn your prostate cancer risk, Improve your lifestyle, Screen annually and Treat aggressively, if necessary.

LEARN Your Risk:

Genetics – men with a father or brother with prostate cancer are 2x as likely to develop the disease; having 3 or more relatives with prostate cancer makes a diagnosis almost certain

Race – African American men have a 60% increased risk of prostate cancer over Caucasian men

Age – more than 65% of prostate cancers occur in men over 65

Weight – obese men, those with a BMI over 30, are 33% more likely to die from a prostate cancer diagnosis

IMPROVE Your Lifestyle:

Eat Right – Changing your diet a little now is much easier than the changes you’d face with prostate cancer. Add a few more fruits and veggies. Not only are they good for you, but some – such as tomatoes and broccoli – contain cancer-fighters that may help reduce your prostate cancer risk. Even red wine contains antioxidants. Cheers!

Move It – A little exercise goes a long way. Even better, a little extra sex can help too. Some studies show a reduced prostate cancer risk with more frequent ejaculations.

SCREEN Annually:

PSA Test – This quick and easy blood test should be done annually, beginning at age 50. Men with increased risk should begin at age 40.

DRE – Not fun, but this painless test is important. Your doctor will use his finger to quickly check for bumps or abnormalities on the surface of the prostate. Yes, annually, too.

Symptoms – For as much as men like to talk and make jokes about biologic and male functions, the minute they detect a problem they clam up. Prostate cancer can be near symptomless, but if you experience any of the following issues please share them with your doctor:  frequency or difficulty urinating, weak or interrupted urine flow, pain associated with urination or ejaculation, erection difficulty or blood in urine or semen.

TREAT Aggressively:

Watchful Waiting – For those who choose to postpone radiation or surgery, cancer surveillance is an option. But, prostate cancer can accelerate quickly. So unless you’re of a significantly advanced age or reduced physical capacity, please explore your treatment options thoroughly before deciding on this more passive approach.

Open or Laparoscopic Prostatectomy – Both of these options effectively remove prostate cancer; however, open surgery is associated with longer and more painful recovery and, in my opinion, laparoscopy falls a little short in the technology area. It does offer recovery benefits over traditional surgery, but there are surgical enhancements available today that better serve the patient and the surgeon.

Robotic Prostatectomy – As I’ve discussed often, I strongly believe in robotic prostatectomy using the da Vinci Surgical System. Finding a surgeon who can pair open and laparoscopic expertise with extensive robotic technology experience is a patient’s best bet. Recovery is faster and men get their lives back on track much more quickly, with minimal long-term side effects.

Radiation or Chemotherapy – In certain instances, external or internal “seed” radiation or chemotherapy may be advisable. Prostate cancer is also an individual path, but it is my belief that removal of the prostate is the best way to eliminate risk of the cancer returning and give yourself peace of mind. It is also worth reminding, that if the radiation fails or the cancer returns in a few years, prostatectomy may not be an option. Discuss this with your doctor.

I know men don’t want to go to the doctor, and certainly not when they’re feeling fine. Acknowledging that something could be “wrong” with them is very difficult and annual physicals are just not a priority. But waiting for symptoms doesn’t work with prostate cancer, and even many other diseases. Taking one morning of your life each year for an annual physical is a small inconvenience that goes a long way toward ensuring a lifetime with those who love you – including the women who keep giving you lists. So what’s one more list? This month, make her happy and check off The List.

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