Connect with Better Health: Prostate Cancer
08/31/2011

As September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) wants to help make Georgians more aware of the importance of early detection and treatment options in fighting and surviving this disease.

Online PR News – 31-August-2011 – – Atlanta, GA – As September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants (GAPA) wants to help make Georgians more aware of the importance of early detection and treatment options in fighting and surviving this disease.

What is the prostate?
The prostate is a gland found only in men. It is located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum and varies in size with age. In younger men, it is the size of a walnut, but it can be much larger in older men.

What is prostate cancer?
“Malignancy of this gland is fairly common,” said Beckie S. Hayes, MSPAS, PA-C. Hayes serves as a GAPA faculty representative and teaches at South University’s Physician Assistant Program in Savannah. “Many sources suggest it is the third most common cause of cancer death in men of all ages, though rarely occurring in those younger than age 40.”

Who gets prostate cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011, 240,890 men in the United States were diagnosed with prostate cancer and of these, 33,720 died. The five-year survival rate is around 99%. About one in six men will be diagnosed with cancer of the prostate during their lifetime. Those at increased risk for prostate cancer include:

• African American men
• Men over 60 years of age
• Those with a first degree family history
• Military members from the Vietnam era with Agent Orange exposure
• Alcohol abusers
• Farmers
• High fat diet consumers
• Those with occupational hazards such as tire manufacturing, painting and cadmium exposure.

What are the symptoms?
The most common presenting symptoms of prostate cancer include:
• Delayed start or slowed urine stream
• Decreased force of stream
• Dribbling or leakage of urine
• Straining when urinating or incomplete voidance
• Blood in the urine or semen
• If metastatic (spread to/from other areas of the body), bone pain, most often in the lower back or pelvic bones.

When should you get checked for prostate cancer?
“Your primary care provider will complete/perform a thorough history and physical examination to determine if a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test is warranted,” stated Ben Taylor, PA-C, PhD. Taylor is the GAPA public information chair and works in multiple emergency departments in Georgia and South Carolina. “Though the PSA is usually elevated in those with prostate cancer, practitioners are careful to consider the history, physical and other diagnostic findings in this setting.”

A higher than normal PSA level may be an indication of prostate infection, inflammation, enlargement or cancer. Often, PSA levels will begin to rise before there are any symptoms and additionally, even when PSA levels are normal, an abnormal digital rectal examination may be the only sign of prostate cancer.

“If you believe you or a loved one may be at risk for developing prostate cancer, contact your primary care provider,” added Hayes. “You can also go to the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition webpage (www.georgiapcc.org/index.asp target="_blank" class="highlight_link">http://www.georgiapcc.org/index.asp) for more information and a list of free prostate screening locations.”

What can be done to prevent prostate cancer?
Although the exact cause of prostate cancer is unknown, it is thought that eating less red meat and fat and eating more vegetables, fruits and grains could reduce the risk.

“Eating healthy just makes sense and certain foods have properties that have been linked to reducing the risk for certain cancers,” Taylor added. “Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon are rich in substances called lycopenes that help prevent damage to DNA and may help lower prostate cancer risk.”

Taylor also recommends checking with your health care provider about having a PSA test and digital rectal exams of the prostate gland. Many doctors recommend that these exams be done yearly beginning at age 50. If there is a history of prostate cancer in close family members, talk with your provider about starting yearly screenings at a younger age.
The mission of the Georgia Association of Physician Assistants is to promote high quality, cost-effective, accessible healthcare as part of a Physician-directed PA/Physician team. Georgians can find a member PA near them by clicking on the “Find a PA” tab at gapa.net.

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