Many of us know that October is typically breast cancer awareness month. Fewer are aware that November — or Movember — is a time to focus on men’s health. Many men have decided to let their facial hair grow to bring attention to this month.
Truth is that men don’t often think about their health the way women do. “I’m too busy to see the doctor” is an excuse that usually creeps into the conversation. A lot of campaigns are underway this month in an attempt to bring about a bit more awareness
The most important men’s health topic these days is prostate cancer (CaP). While there has been a lot of debate about the necessity of detecting CaP, it still remains the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in men — 241,000 cases in 2012 — and the second leading cause of cancer deaths — 28,100, also in 2012 — behind lung cancer. One in six men will be diagnosed with it in his lifetime, and it usually afflicts older men. On average, one in 36 men will die from CaP.
The exact cause of CaP is not known, but it is known that black men are more likely to be diagnosed with this disease and tend to have a higher mortality rate. Dietary causes have not been clearly established.
Screening guidelines are evolving, but the American Cancer Society currently recommends that screening for prostate cancer be an informed decision by the patient and his doctor. Screening usually is suggested for men past the age of 50 and is typically accomplished with the combination of a blood test for prostate specific antigen and a rectal exam (yep, bummer).
If either the PSA or the rectal exam is abnormal, then a prostate biopsy is the next step. This is performed by an urologist and takes roughly 10 to 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to these tests. The PSA and rectal exam can only suggest CaP, and most men who undergo a prostate biopsy usually do not have cancer. In other words, a high PSA result can often lead to a negative biopsy. Molecular markers are becoming an important tool to try to help this issue.
For those who are diagnosed with CaP, there are several options that are available depending on the stage of the cancer — surgery, radiation and hormone therapy, to include a few. There are multiple types of surgery and radiation, as well.
Please consult your local urologist if you have any questions or concerns about this topic.
• Salman S. Razi, M.D., is a urologist, a diplomate of the American Board of Urology and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, with a practice in Tracy.