In the United States, prostate cancer (search) has the dubious distinction of being both the most common cancer diagnosed and, if caught early, the least deadly.
About 200,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. While the cancer grows so slowly that most men do not need treatment, 30,000 die annually from the disease, making it the No. 2 cancer killer of American men, second to lung cancer.
In 2000, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (search) put a public face on the disease when he bowed out of a race for the U.S. Senate to pursue treatment. He publicly addressed the issue of seeking a treatment option that would preserve sexual function. His recovery and current good health symbolize the hopeful outcome that most men who detect the cancer early can anticipate.
But the death of popular actor Jerry Orbach, 69, star of NBC's "Law & Order," in December, 2004, served as a sad and stark reminder that men do fall from the disease. Overall, 89 percent of men diagnosed will survive five years and 63 percent will survive 10 years or longer.
Because prostate cancer is sex-specific and affects a sex organ, it is often referred to as the "male breast cancer." Prostate cancer, in fact, has a slightly higher death rate than breast cancer, and the disparity between the resources devoted to breast cancer advocacy and research and those designated for prostate cancer is a source of growing controversy.
Major league baseball greats are the newest advocates trying to address that gap, teaming up with Washington lawmakers to raise money and awareness for the fight against the disease. The effort is being spearheaded by legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda (search) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
"We want men to be sure that they exercise good judgment and do preventative health care," Chambliss, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine exam one year ago, told FOX News. With early detection, Chambliss said, "we're winning the fight."
With June not only the month for Father's Day but also recognized as Men's Health Awareness Month and Cancer Survivors Month, the American Cancer Society is urging children to include in their gifts for Dad a checkup and prostate screening.
"Take Dad out to a ball game, a nice meal, or a favorite fishing spot for Father's Day — but remember to take care of his health, too, by insisting that he get a checkup on schedule. It should include the exams men need to find cancer early — when treatments are most successful," the ACS advises.
In fact, the ACS has made available on their Web site electronic greeting cards that include in their Father's Day messages a reminder to Dad to get screened for prostate cancer.
Over the past year, doctors have made interesting discoveries in the treatment of prostate cancer. Researchers have investigated new surgical procedures and found that therapies as disparate as exercise, sunshine exposure and a drug used to treat breast cancer may all help combat the disease.
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