Five Facts About Prostate Cancer Every Man Should Know

Last month, singer and songwriter Dan Fogelberg died at the age of 56 after fighting prostate cancer since 2004.

His doctors said if he had been diagnosed earlier, he could have survived.

Fogelberg’s death has shined light on a disease the American Cancer Society calls the most common cancer, other than skin cancers, in American men. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men; only lung cancer ranks higher. The nonprofit estimates that about one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime, but just one in 35 will die of it.

With data such as this, every male who has reached 40 should arm himself with the information that can keep him from becoming a statistic. Dr. Arnon Krongard, president of the Krongard Institute and chairman of the Prostate Cancer Mission, believes that knowing the following five facts will put men in a better position to survive this deadly cancer:

1. Prostate cancer kills 500 American men weekly — Krongard likens the disease’s mortality rate to "a Jumbo Jet crashing into a mountain." He said the rate skyrockets if you add in the number of prostate cancer deaths from countries around the world.

2. Prostate cancer in the curable stages is not symptomatic — "If you are waiting for symptoms, you are missing a window of opportunity," Krongard said. The American Cancer Society said that men who have reached age 50 and have at least a 10-year life expectancy should begin testing for prostate cancer.

In addition, men who have a father, brother or son with prostate cancer before age 65 should begin testing at age 40. Depending on the results of this initial test, further testing might not be needed until age 45.

3. Prostate cancer can be detected when it is asymptomatic — there are two tests used to diagnose the disease. The PSA blood test measures the level of prostate-specific antigen in the blood. Prostate gland cells manufacture this antigen whether they are normal or cancerous.

Your chance of having prostate cancer increases, however, as your PSA level increases. If your PSA level is 10 or more, you have a more than 50 percent chance of developing prostate cancer.

A second test, the DRE, or digital rectal exam, involves your doctor inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel whether there are any bumps or hard areas in your prostate. If there are, you will need further testing to see if cancer is present.

4. Early detection is key to effective management — prostate cancer that is localized in the prostate usually is curable, but once the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, bones or other sites, it no longer is curable.

5. There have been some advances in the cure, especially in the realm of surgery. A recently developed surgical procedure known as laparoscopic radical prostatectomy uses several smaller incisions through which long instruments are inserted to remove the prostate. A small video camera on the end of one of these instruments allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen.

The advantages to this type of surgery include less blood loss and pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times.

"Patients are exposed to commercial hype that makes it seem as though if you get the right device or drug, that’s all that’s important," Krongard added.

"It’s necessary for patients to know who their doctor is. Does she have the experience, passion and focus to give you the care you need?"

For more information about prostate cancer, click here to visit the Prostate Cancer Mission on the Web.