September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

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African-American men are at higher risk than any other group in the country so Get It Checked

By Ana Fadich Tomsic

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men and will strike approximately 192,000 men this year – and kill more than 33,000 – making it second only to lung cancer as the deadliest cancer in men.

African-American men are at especially high risk. Compared to other men, they’re 1.7 times more likely to develop prostate cancer, and more than twice as likely to die from the disease.

Caught early, prostate cancer can be treated, usually successfully. Early detection is especially important for African-American men, who are more likely to be diagnosed when their cancer is at an advanced stage. The good news is that the earlier the disease is caught, the better the odds of successful treatment—regardless of race. In other words, All men, regardless of race or ethnicity whose cancer is caught at the same stage will have identical outcomes.

Prostate cancer has no symptoms in the early stages, however, a man shouldn’t wait for “something bad” to happen to get it checked. A website by the same name provides guidelines in a schedule of checkups and age-appropriate screenings for both men and women at www.GetItChecked.com.

This is doubly true in this year of COVID-19. Don’t let the pandemic deter you from getting an easy, fast prostate screening test. Talk to your healthcare provider to schedule one this month.

For almost 30 years, doctors have had a powerful weapon in their arsenal for detecting prostate cancer. Now, doctors have a second test as well. In addition to the digital rectal exam (DRE), a physical exam that allows the doctor to feel the prostate, patients can have a simple blood test called a prostate specific antigen test (PSA) that will detect a majority of prostate problems early. Since the PSA has been used, prostate cancer deaths have declined and the number of successfully treated prostate cancer cases has risen.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and Men’s Health Network (MHN) urges all men to talk to their healthcare providers about prostate cancer. MHN also encourages women to get involved and to urge their husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and other loved ones to talk to their healthcare provider about prostate screening, including the PSA and DRE tests.

You can learn more about prostate cancer and other cancers in minority communities, at the Office of Minority Health, www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov. You can also ask an expert at the CDC named, “Nathan.” Nathan is actually a computer animated man that talks about the prostate, screening, testing and virtually anything else you may want to know about the prostate. It’s an interactive program so you can also ask questions in the privacy of your home using a computer or smart phone. To connect with Nathan simply go to www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate.

A federally staffed panel of experts, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), makes recommendations about screenings that healthcare providers look to for guidance. The Task Force has recommended that men age 55-69 should speak to their healthcare provider about using the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. But Men’s Health Network, many other patient advocate organizations, and many healthcare providers think that doesn’t go far enough.

If you are on Medicare, prostate cancer screening is a part of your Welcome to Medicare physical, the free comprehensive physical exam you receive in your first year of eligibility. But you may have to ask for the “Welcome” physical since many healthcare providers don’t seem to know about it. Medicare continues to cover prostate cancer screening in following years.

For younger men, more than 30 states require that insurance companies offering health insurance in their state provide coverage for prostate cancer tests. Insurance companies may offer prostate cancer screening in the remaining states but are not required to do so.

When you receive your PSA test results, ask the healthcare provider what your PSA number is, write it down, and compare it against future tests. If the number goes up in future tests, talk to your healthcare provider.

The bottom line? Having an annual prostate exam, including a PSA test, just might save your life. No matter what age you are, an annual PSA test creates a benchmark to judge future tests against.

No insurance and limited funds? Watch for free screenings in your area. Many healthcare providers, hospitals, clinics, and health fairs offer free prostate screenings in September and at other times during the year.

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