Sep 4, 2009 2:23 PM by Leanne Gregg
September is prostate cancer awareness month and a time when health care providers are encouraging men to get screened for the disease. That process begins with a PSA test.
Dr. Jacques Ganem is on the front line of treating one of the most common cancers in men worldwide.
"Approximately 180,000 men are told they have prostate cancer every year in the United States and approximately 30,000 men die of this disease every year," Dr. Jacques Ganem, a urologist, said.
Doctors know that early detection from screenings saves lives.
"The survival rates are going up the death rates are going down and I think that is related to PSA screening," Dr. Ganem said.
It's a simple blood test.
"The PSA is the best tool we have but you can still use it better," Dr. James Mohler of Roswell Park Cancer Institute said.
One score alone does not determine a potentially deadly cancer
Multiple PSA tests over time, along with digital rectal exams are part of the process.
And if there is cancer, a biopsy and more tests will measure whether it's an aggressive or slow growing tumor.
"There's a large number of men who have a prostate cancer, but it's a prostate cancer that is of no risk to their life," Dr. Otis Brawley of the American Cancer Society said.
Some studies even suggest many men have received aggressive treatment they may not have really needed.
"You have a very complicated discussion (with your doctor) and you chose what's best for you," Dr. Mohler said.
Doctors and survivors say screening is still your best advantage.
"For years women have been getting pelvic exams, pap smears, breast exams. It is time for men to take control of this threat to their lives posed by prostate cancer," Dr. Mohler said.
"If you can detect it a very early stage the odds of an effective cure are much much higher," Wayne Lynn, a prostate cancer patient, said.
"That's what saved my life..They found it early," John Wesley Davis, a prostate cancer survivor, said.
A potentially deadly but highly curable disease... one where early detection can make all the difference.
Men are recommended to start having their PSA blood test at age 50 but African American men are at higher risk and are suggested to start at around age 40.