LiveSmart: September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

[This piece was written by Anne Lawton, RN, community liaison, St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center, who is also a facilitator of The Butt Stops Here tobacco cessation program.]

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in New York state. According to the NYS Department of Health, there were 13,648 new prostate cancer diagnoses and 1,627 deaths from the disease in 2015.

Like most cancers, early diagnosis of prostate cancer is vital. The American Cancer Society reports the five year survival rate for localized disease, discovered early, is near 100 percent.

The prostate is a walnut shaped gland that is located between the bladder and rectum. The urethra runs through the center of the prostate, from the bladder to the penis, allowing urine to flow out.

Prostate cancer occurs when normal cells within the prostate mutate and grow out of control, forming a tumor of abnormal cells. Most prostate cancers are very slow growing and, in the early stages of the disease, there are rarely obvious symptoms. Symptoms of more advanced disease include difficulty with urination, blood in the urine, pain, and fatigue.

One in six men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. Prostate cancer affects mostly older men and increased age is the number one risk factor. Men at an increased risk of prostate cancer include those with a family history of prostate cancer, especially if the family member was diagnosed at an early age (under age 50).

African American men also have a higher rate of incidence and it may occur at a younger age. Obesity is another known risk factor.

The screening guidelines for prostate cancer vary, so the most important action for all men to take is to have a conversation with their primary care physician at their annual visit about screening and the most appropriate age to begin. This conversation should take place around age 50 for the average male, and no later than 40 for African American men or those with a family history.

Screening tools include a blood test known as a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam, which allows the doctor to feel for gland enlargement or abnormalities.

Early detection is vital for long term survival. Take control of your health and talk to your health care provider today about prostate cancer screening.

At St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center, we take pride in offering a treatment approach that is patient-centered and supported by a multidisciplinary team for treatment planning. St. Peter’s Hospital was named one of America’s Best Hospitals for Cancer Care by the Women’s Choice Award in 2017 and 2018.

If you have questions, please call St. Peter’s Hospital Cancer Line at 518-525-1547.

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