Why is it important to find prostate cancer early?

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By Sherri Halsell
Texas AgriLife Agent

This is the first article of a series of prostate cancer articles that I will be writing for the next two months in an effort to encourage the men of Clay County to schedule an appointment with their physician to be screened for prostate cancer.  Look for information to come about a Prostate Cancer Prevention Program to be held in Henrietta.

The word “screening” refers to testing to find a disease like cancer in people who do not have symptoms of that disease. For some types of cancer, screening can help find cancers in an early stage when they are more easily cured. The goal of screening is to help people live healthier, longer lives.

The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find it early, in the hope that it can be treated more effectively.

Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood. Another way to find prostate cancer early is the digital rectal exam (DRE).

If prostate cancer is found during screening with the PSA test or DRE, your cancer will likely be at an early, more treatable stage than if no screening were done.

The American Cancer Society recommends that men have a chance to make an informed decision with their health care provider about whether to be screened for prostate cancer. The decision should be made after getting information about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information.

The discussion about screening should take place at age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years.

This discussion should take place starting at age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father, brother, or son) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).

This discussion should take place at age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with several first-degree relatives who had prostate cancer at an early age).

After this discussion, those men who want to be screened should be tested with the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The digital rectal exam (DRE) may also be done as a part of screening.

If, after this discussion, a man is unable to decide if testing is right for him, the screening decision can be made by the health care provider, who should take into account the patient’s general health preferences and values.

Men who choose to be tested who have a PSA of less than 2.5 ng/ml, may only need to be retested every 2 years.

Screening should be done yearly for men whose PSA level is 2.5 ng/ml or higher.

Because prostate cancer grows slowly, those men without symptoms of prostate cancer who do not have a 10-year life expectancy should not be offered testing since they are not likely to benefit. Overall health status, and not age alone, is important when making decisions about screening.

Even after a decision about testing has been made, the discussion about the pros and cons of testing should be repeated as new information about the benefits and risks of testing becomes available. Further discussions are also needed to take into account changes in the patient’s health, values, and preferences.

Unfortunately, men are reluctant to have a prostate cancer screening. That is why Texas AgriLife Extension Service Clay County is working to inform Texas men about prostate cancer prevention. If you are interested in being a part of the planning group to help encourage Clay County men to get scheduled for a prostate cancer screening please contact Sherri Halsell Clay County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Sciences at 538-5042.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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