Most people are aware that the number one killer of men is heart disease. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, nearly 700,000 men die of heart disease each year. So then what is the number two killer? Cancer. One type of cancer common to men is prostate cancer. There are 200,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year with 30,000 dying from the disease, according to the Prostate Health Guide at http://www.prostatehealthguide.com/awareness/prostate-cancer-awareness-month/. The purpose of their guide is to educate men that early detection is the key to life-saving treatment.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH, is the medical babble for an enlarged prostate. What is the prostate for? What does it do? The prostate is the male sex gland that produces fluid for semen. While an enlarged prostate is the most common problematic prostate condition for men over age 50, it is not a cancerous condition. It is so common, half of the men between the ages of 50-60 will develop it. Think those are high odds? Hang on to your hat. By age 80, up to 90 percent of all men will have the condition, and the ongoing enlarging may continue for the rest of their natural lives.
How does a man know if he has an enlarged prostate? The BPH symptoms are:
- Frequent urination, and more so at night.
- The frustrating inability to empty the bladder.
- A weak stream of urine.
- Feeling the need to strain to get the urination process going.
- Leaking after urinating.
If a man is beginning to panic because they can tick off several items on the checklist, relax. Symptoms of BPH doesn’t mean cancer is imminent. Then how does a man be aware of and avoid the disease?
It’s been said before; early detection is the answer. There are two forms of identifying the presence of the disease long before symptoms appear. One is a digital rectal exam, or DRE, where the doctor feels the gland for any abnormalities. Second, there is a blood test that can detect elevated levels that are a red flag. The test is called a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, blood test. The doctor will be looking for numbers outside of the normal range.
It is recommended that every man have a baseline PSA and DRE at age 40 so his health care provider can compare ongoing tests over the years against the original exam. If the disease is caught early, it is treatable.
That’s a lot of prostate talk, but what are the odds of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer? The chances are one man in seven. There are several risk factors which include:
- Race. African American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer.
- Family history. Men with several family members diagnosed with prostate cancer may indicate a genetic link.
- Age. Increased age leaves a man more vulnerable to a variety of health-related conditions, including prostate cancer.
- Toxic chemicals. Men who have worked around lethal chemicals or have been exposed to Agent Orange have an increased incidence of the disease.
One Tulsa man had a recent run-in with prostate cancer.
“When you first hear you have cancer, it is a bit of a shock,” Oral Roberts University Assistant Professor of Media Mark Labash said. “It puts the present life in the proper perspective. You realize that you could be saying goodbye to everything you ever worked for, saying goodbye to all your friends and relatives, and essentially leaving this earth naked and alone the way you came in. As a Christian, my hope and future are in the Lord’s hands, so I simply relaxed in Him. I knew I had three options: to be healed through medicine, to be healed by God, or to die and go to live with Jesus for eternity. In all three, I win. My surgery went well, and I am trusting that I will be cancer-free. I have a doctor’s appointment Thursday to have a blood test to determine my future plans. Time will tell.”
Early on, prostate cancer is usually silent, showing no symptoms. As the disease is left untreated, however, indicators begin to raise their heads. Some of the symptoms of prostate cancer are more serious than those with BPH:
- Hip or back pain
- Difficulty urinating
- Painful or burning urination
- Bloody urine
Women tend to take care of themselves better than men and regularly keep up with their yearly exams. What can women do to encourage their men to seek medical help if they see some of these symptoms in their loved ones? Get involved in encouraging the men in your life’s healthcare, keep him educated with what to look for, and schedule his doctor appointments.
Labash’s wife, Deborah Labash, in all actuality, saved her husband’s life.
“I missed my husband’s first meeting with his new doctor,” Deborah Labash said. “He assured me it was a run-of-the-mill appointment with bloodwork ordered. Notebook in hand, I attended the second meeting and asked the doctor what his PSA numbers were the previous year. I was expecting the PSA test would have been ordered, since my husband had higher than normal levels in his medical history, only to find out it had not been checked. I asked for a PSA check and his vitamin D level. It came back positive for cancer. As prevalent as cancer is, you still never expect it to hit your home. Men tend to downplay and ignore symptoms until it’s a problem they are forced to address. Creating a personal medical file, researching a condition, and making a list of the right questions for the doctor is invaluable.”
Oklahoma Prostate Screening Resources
American Cancer Society in Oklahoma
The American Cancer Society in Oklahoma is rich in resources for men facing prostate cancer treatment and recovery. They will assist in referring to Oklahoma-based services and programs. For more information, call their hotline at 800.227.2345 or visit their website at: www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer.html
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