Early treatment can save your life

Approximately one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is the third most diagnosed cancer in Pennsylvania, just behind lung and breast cancer.

Nationally, it is the second most common form of cancer in men.

The good news, according to Glenn Bloiso, M.D., urologist at Susquehanna Health, is that if the cancer is detected early, it can usually be cured or controlled.

In fact, 90 percent of all prostate cancers are discovered when it is localized or regional, the time when it is most curable. The five-year survival rate for the cancer in this stage is almost 100 percent.

Dr. Bloiso says prostate cancer “runs a spectrum from being incidental, requiring no treatment, to an aggressive malignancy that can cause pain, suffering and death.”  Early detection is the key.

The American Cancer Society statistics show that in the late stage of cancer, where it has traveled to the lymph nodes, bones or other organs, the five-year survival rate is only 28 percent.

Charles Ackley, D.O., Internal Medicine physician at Geisinger Clinic – Lock Haven, says “prostate cancer is very much a disease of aging.

Basically, the older a man gets, the higher his chance of getting the disease.”

The Prostate Cancer Foundation gives the incidence for the disease as one in 10,000 for men under the age of 40, going up to one in 14 for the 60-69 age group. Even though older men get the disease more often, that doesn’t mean it will be fatal.

Doctors say that most men die with prostate cancer, not from it.

Thane Turner, M.D., Family Medicine physician at Haven Medical Center, says it is important to start a dialogue with your primary care physician. That discussion should pay special attention to family history and risk factors.

Risk factors for the disease include:

r Age.

r     Race, with African American men having a higher risk and Asian men having a lower risk.

r     Family history of the disease. Dr. Turner adds that a mother with a history of breast cancer also raises your risk of getting the disease.

r     Diet. Some studies show that a diet high in fat, red meat, or high-fat dairy products can increase the risk for the disease.

All four physicians say it is important to see a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms of prostate cancer.

Symptoms include:

r     A frequent need to urinate or problems urinating.

r     Blood in the urine or semen.

r     Difficulty in having an erection or any erectile dysfunction.

r     Frequent pain in the hips, back or upper thighs.

Robert Grzonka, M.D., a urologist joining Lock Haven Hospital’s Haven Urology, cautions that having some of the symptoms does not mean you have cancer, as several other more benign diseases often have the same symptoms.

“Prostate cancer is a silent cancer, often with no symptoms in the early stages,” Dr. Grzonka adds.

That’s why it is important for men to start having a discussion with their family doctors no later than age 50.

He recommends a baseline PSA blood test by age 50, or earlier if there is a family history of prostate cancer or if you are African American. African American males have the highest incidence and mortality from the disease.

The PSA blood test has come under fire in recent years.

In 2012, the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommended against routine PSA screening for healthy men of all ages. In studies, they found the harm of screening outweighed the benefits of the test. The group cited the high incidence of biopsy for men who were found to have a high PSA, when there was actually no cancer.

Medicare and some other health insurance companies will no longer pay for the PSA as a screening test, only as a diagnostic test. Dr. Ackley and Dr. Turner both expressed frustration with the new guidelines, saying the old guidelines called for a base PSA at age 50 with a yearly test to compare. “It is frustrating as a caregiver when you look for expert guidance and the experts can’t agree on the best way to proceed,” Dr. Ackley says.

Dr. Turner stresses that is why it is so important to have a discussion about risk factors and symptoms with your family doctor, before the age of 50.

Both doctors emphasize that if you have any symptoms of prostate cancer, to see your physician immediately. Early treatment can save your life.