Prostate Cancer Screening
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, so we’d like to take a moment to focus on our male patients and to reiterate the importance of being screened. If you’re on the fence about sceduling your prostate exam or trying to decide if it’s really necessary, we’d like to share an article we received from the American Cancer Society to help you make a responsible and educated decision.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Prostate Cancer Screening
You probably wouldn’t consider purchasing a new car, booking a vacation, or remodeling your home without doing some research first, right? The American Cancer Society believes people should be just as conscientious when it comes to making decisions about their health, especially men who are faced with the question of whether or not to get screened for prostate cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends men make an informed decision with their health care provider about screening for prostate cancer – after learning about the uncertainties, risks, and potential benefits of screening – typically starting at age 50. Higher-risk men may need to have this discussion with their doctor earlier. Because prostate cancer often grows slowly, the Society recommends men who are asymptomatic and have less than a 10-year life expectancy not be offered prostate cancer screening since they are not likely to benefit from treatment.
If a screening test can help find cancer early, why would someone choose not to have it? While prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men, there are potential harms associated with screening for the disease and treatment that men should be aware of, including over-diagnosis and over-treatment.
For example, some prostate cancers are slow-growing and may never pose a health threat. Yet, “for most men who are told that they have prostate cancer, the first question is: ‘How soon can we get rid of it?’” says Durado Brooks, MD, MPH, director of prostate and colorectal cancers at the American Cancer Society.
But “getting rid of it” isn’t always the best choice. Men could suffer side effects and complications (including damage to bladder or bowel function and sexual difficulties) from treating a cancer that would not have caused them harm if it went untreated or undiscovered. Yet each individual situation is different. The cancer could grow quickly and need treatment, making it important for men to make an informed decision about screening and treatment with their health care provider.
Men can learn the facts about prostate cancer screening and treatment from their health care provider or ask their provider to refer them to a reliable source. The American Cancer Society’s Web site, cancer.org, offers detailed information and decision guides to help you start the conversation. (Be sure to check out the video “Prostate Cancer: Informed Decision Making” on the American Cancer Society YouTube channel.)
For more information about prostate cancer screening and treatment, contact your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.
Source: American Cancer Society
Copyright 2012 American Cancer Society, Inc. All rights reserved.