Men worry about losing different things as they age: their looks, their hair, their athletic abilities, or losing their sexual performance. While these things are all important, there are many more pressing issues when it comes to men’s health that an aging man should be concerned with. Many men don’t realize that the second leading cancer death in men is prostate cancer.
With continuing advancements in screening and diagnostic tools available, prostate cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Tumors found in the prostate tend to grow slowly, and when found early in the local or regional state, have an extremely high rate of success following treatment. Prostate cancer experts are beginning to learn more about the aggressive variants of prostate cancer, so early detection is extremely important.
According to cancer.org, “the only well-established risk factors for prostate cancer are increasing age, African ancestry, a family history of the disease, and certain inherited genetic conditions.” Because the risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, men must be diligent in speaking with their doctors about current screening options available. At present, the prostate screening antigen test (PSA), a simple blood test, is a way to test the blood for a specific substance that can predict a possible prostate cancer diagnosis. While PSA tests do not specifically diagnose prostate cancer, they can be an extremely helpful tool in predicting one’s likelihood of being diagnosed in the future, or perhaps the need for other definitive tests (more on this here).
In addition to screening tests, doctors are continuing to learn more and more about biological markers in the body that can identify indolent or low-grade tumors versus aggressive prostate tumors that require immediate treatment. Many other tests are available as well to help doctors determine the need for a prostate biopsy, prostate cancer treatment, or a less-invasive approach.
The key in early detection is to determine your risk factors and speak with your doctor about possible diagnostic tests that are available to you. The American Cancer Society suggests prostate screening for average-risk men begin at age 50, high-risk men at 45 (including African-Americans and those with a first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer before age 60), and higher-risk men (with more than one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age) beginning at age 40.
While we cannot always change the future of our health, with knowledge, we can take preventative actions by knowing our risk factors and acting smartly.