September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness month. One goal of this annual promotion is to spread the word that prostate cancer treatments available now are highly effective and survival rates approach 100 percent — when the cancer is detected early! This is an important message, considering that in the United States this year, approximately 241,740 men will learn that they have prostate cancer and nearly 28,170 will die from the disease. Likewise, 80 men in Cayuga County will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, and eight of them will not survive it.
Prostate cancer, like most other cancers, usually has no symptoms in its early stages. With advanced disease, symptoms would typically involve difficulties with urination. While most prostate cancers cannot be prevented because of risk factors beyond a man’s control (such as age, race and family history), there are steps that can be taken to reduce risk for the disease. Eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables daily, coupled with getting screened every year starting at age 50, can help reduce risk for both prostate and colorectal cancers. The American Urological Association supports a baseline screening at age 40 if there is a first-degree relative, such as a father or brother, with a history of prostate cancer. The decision to get tested is one that a man should make with his doctor following a careful discussion. This conversation should include not only the benefits and risks of screening, but a man’s personal and family medical history. Black men are at high risk, and face a one-in-three chance of being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Medically underserved men are at highest risk for prostate cancer, due to lack of screening for the disease. Screening for prostate cancer consists of two steps: a doctor’s exam of the prostate gland, and a blood test that measures a protein made by cells in the prostate. The blood test is called a PSA, which stands for prostate-specific antigen. High PSA levels in a man’s blood indicate a prostate problem, but not necessarily cancer! Since neither of these screening techniques are 100-percent effective, it is the combination of the two that allows for the early detection of prostate cancer.
On Tuesday, Sept. 18, the Cayuga County Cancer Services Program together with William Foresman, M.D., Gerald Ortego, P.A., Maggie Garland, P.A., of Reflections Dermatology and Psoriasis Center, Auburn Community Hospital, the American Cancer Society and Wegmans, will sponsor the ninth annual Let’s Talk About It program. This event is intended to help medically uninsured and under-insured men ages 45 and older be screened for prostate and skin cancer, and eligible men ages 50 and older be screened for colorectal cancer. At last year’s event, 35 men were screened for prostate cancer and three prostate problems were detected. In addition to the prostate screenings, eight take-home colon cancer screening kits were given to eligible men.
Let’s Talk About It will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Lake Region Urology, 192 Genesee St., in Auburn. Prostate cancer screenings, skin cancer screenings, take-home test kits for colorectal cancer, diabetes testing and blood pressure checks will be offered. The event will also feature individual patient education sessions, giveaway items and refreshments.
To participate in the program, eligible men must preregister by Sept. 17. Please call the Cayuga County Cancer Services Program at 253-1455 to sign up. We will discuss the qualifications for this free program when you call.
It is our sincere hope that this program will encourage men to be more proactive about their health, and to be effective decision-makers where prostate and colorectal cancer screening is concerned. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men of all races. It is also the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, next to lung cancer. At some point in their lives, one man in six will get prostate cancer.
The Cayuga County Cancer Services Program shares the American Cancer Society’s goal of eliminating cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through education and service.
Elane Daly, Special to The Citizen