Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men in the U.S.
This year, Major League Baseball has teamed up with Prostate Cancer Foundation for the Home Run Challenge in honor of Father's Day. Each home run hit in 60 selected games from June 6 through Father's Day on June 17 will raise money for prostate cancer.
So this year, forget the tie and the Old Spice that never makes it out of the bathroom cabinet. Give your father the gift of health by reminding him about the importance of prostate cancer screening.
If your dad is a baseball fan, make a pledge in his name to the Home Run Challenge or another organization fighting this disease and supporting its survivors. If your dad doesn't care for America's pastime, you can post him a tribute at Dockers San Francisco, where the company will donate one dollar for every online submission. The message may even be selected to be shown in Times Square.
And for the dad that says he doesn't need anything but your love, show him how much you love him by forwarding (or printing out) the facts on prostate cancer.
What is Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer forms in the tissues of the prostate, a gland the size of a walnut found in the male reproductive system. This cancer usually occurs in older men, and the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 281,890 new cases in 2007 in the U.S. alone. One in 6 men will get prostate cancer in his lifetime. It is estimated 27,050 men will die of this disease, making it the second leading cancer death after lung cancer for men.
Who is at Risk?
Doctors do not know exactly what causes prostate cancer. They do know age is the biggest risk factor, with men over 50 at a higher risk of being diagnosed with the disease. African-American men have a 60 percent higher incidence rate of prostate cancer than white men, while Asian men have lower incidences than whites. Family history plays a role as well, men with fathers or brothers who have had prostate cancer are more likely to get cancer themselves.
Men who eat a diet high in red meat also have a greater risk for prostate cancer, and these men also eat less fruits and vegetables. Doctors are not sure if it is the high intake of meat or the lack of vegetables that increase a man's risk. All men should eat a balanced diet, including at least the five-a-day serving of fruits and vegetables.
When Should You Get Tested?
The ACS recommends doctors offer a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam to men over 50 who do not have any major medical problem.
While doctors are advised to offer these tests, there are no recommendations to routinely test. Your doctor should provide all the risk and benefits of these exams in order for you to decide which tests make the most sense for you.
PSA is a substance that is made by the normal prostate gland. A small amount is found in the blood, usually at levels less than 4 nanograms per milliliter. If that level goes up to between 4 and 10 ng/mL, there is a 25 percent chance of having prostate cancer. If that level is over 10 ng/mL, the risk of prostate cancer doubles to 50 percent. It is also possible to have prostate cancer with levels under 4 ng/mL, which is why many doctors will recommend the rectal exam as well.
How Can You Prevent Prostate Cancer?
While prostate cancer is not entirely preventable, there are things that can be done to lower your risk. Eating a balanced diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables can decrease risk. Regular exercise has also been linked to lower cancer risks, although there is no direct evidence it wards off prostate cancer.
Many studies have shown that vitamin E and folic acid can cut the risk for prostate cancer, but recent studies have found that too many vitamins and folic acid may fuel tumors in the prostate that are already present.
Any vitamins or supplements should be discussed with a doctor to see which supplements will offer the greatest personalized benefit.
What Treatments Are Available?
If a PSA level came back high, a doctor might want to do a biopsy. When a tissue sample is taken, it goes to the lab where it is assigned a number between 2 and 10 that correlates to the degree of cancer.
A low-risk score is 2 to 4, a medium risk is 5 to 7, and 8 to 10 is considered high risk.
Depending on the stage and grade of your cancer, you may want a second opinion to way your treatment options.
Some men may be advised to just watch and wait. That does not mean doing nothing; rather a doctor will closely monitor the cancer to see if the benefit of treatment outweighs the risks. This treatment is often for older men or men with other serious medical conditions.
There are two main surgery options, radical prostatectomy and transurethral resection of the prostate. Radical prostatectomy removes the entire prostate gland and some of the tissue around it. It is usually performed if the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate.
Transurethral resection is done to relieve symptoms, such as trouble urinating, but unlike a radical prostatectomy, it is not done to completely cure the cancer.
Cryosurgery is an alternative to traditional surgery. Cold metal probes are used to freeze the cancer cells. It is only used for cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate.
There are a range of other treatments, including hormone therapy, radiation and chemotherapy, as well as alternative treatments and many clinical trials for new treatments.
It is important to think about a range of factors before undergoing treatment. The most important factors are age, your overall health, and your goals for treatment. Men today have more options than ever, and yearly death rates are dropping for prostate cancer. All men over 50 should ask their doctor about their own risk for prostate cancer, and then take action to stay healthy.
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