News from the American Cancer Society SCV Unit
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so now is the time to discuss the disease that affects one in seven men. If you’re a male under age 40, your chances of developing prostate cancer are very small, but after age 50, the risk rises rapidly. According to the American Cancer Society, about six in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men 65 years and older.
The ACS, the largest non-governmental funder of cancer research in the United States, estimates prostate cancer will claim the lives of about 26,000 males this year. In 2016 alone, about 181,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men after skin cancer.
Now for encouraging news: Most men with prostate cancer will not die from it. The majority of cases are found early when the cancer has not spread. In fact, nearly 3,000,000 men in the U.S. previously diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive today.
It’s vital that men discuss prostate cancer and testing with their doctor. This should take place at age 40, earlier for men at higher risk – those with family history, as well as African-American and Caribbean males of African ancestry.
Screening tests include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE). More tests may follow if abnormalities are identified. Should prostate cancer be found, the course of action will be determined through certain factors, including the stage at which it is caught, patient’s age, health, risks/benefits of surgery/other treatments. Candid patient-physician conversations are essential in making informed decisions about care. Securing alternate medical-surgical opinions is always a wise move.
At age 66, Jake came to understand the life-or-death difference a second opinion can make when his doctor said: “You have prostate cancer.”
Although initially stunned and frightened, Jake was reassured when the doctor said it was a slow growing cancer requiring active surveillance (monitoring with regular PSA tests, rectal exams, ultrasounds and possibly biopsies). He was told to go on about his business, and that he did. A busy law professional who enjoys travel, skiing and mountain hiking, Jake didn’t let the diagnosis interrupt his daily activities or fun calendared plans. But in the back of his mind, a question lingered: What if that doctor is wrong?
A second opinion at UCLA informed Jake that his cancer was not a “wait and see.” Robotic arm assisted surgery soon followed, but that was not the end of his cancer saga. The pathology report yielded shocking news. Jake had a particularly aggressive cell-type – the cancer had already spread beyond the prostate and into surrounding tissues.
Following 56 doses of radiation and almost two years of hormone therapy to obliterate his testosterone (male hormone is believed to “feed” prostate cancer cells), Jake remains in remission and hopes to stay that way. Always with him though is knowledge that his prostate cancer may recur. An optimistic guy who lives in the moment, Jake strives to keep an upbeat attitude; some days that’s easier to do that than others. Whatever diagnostic tests, exams and consults are needed, he gets them done promptly.
Jake looks forward to seeing one of his daughters get married next year – and in time, becoming a doting grandfather. Getting a second opinion has given him a good shot at realizing that joyous patriarchal future.
His heartfelt advice to men: “Get tested for prostate cancer, and remember, you cannot take a diagnosis like this with enough gravity. Educate yourself. Don’t rely upon one opinion or even two – or what friends say – because the consequences are just too dire. Be your own best advocate.”
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.
Santa Clarita’s ACS office is located at 25020 Avenue Stanford #170, Valencia, 91355. For more information, please call 661-298-0886 option 3. You may also call the ACS 24/7 at 800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.
Editor’s Note: Jake’s name was changed to maintain anonymity.
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