Monday, November 03, 2014


Early detection of prostate cancer is key

Every year I sign up my husband for a prostate cancer screening.  Just like every other man, he hates to have it done, but he knows I won't budge on this issue.  He has a family history of prostate cancer, putting him at a higher risk. 

Current screening methods include a simple blood test for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam.  PSA is a protein that is produced by the prostate gland.  It is present in small quantities for healthy men, while higher amounts can indicate prostate cancer or less serious conditions such as infection.

There has been much recent debate surrounding yearly prostate screenings. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America explain the debate this way: previously, men over 50 were advised to be screened for prostate cancer once a year.  However, these annual screenings may lead to men having to make a difficult decision about treatment, when in fact, it may not be necessary.  Some treatments for prostate cancer can result in stressful side effects like urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction. 

The debate becomes confusing when the same experts report that the 10-year survival rate for prostate cancer diagnosed in the early stages is 98 percent.  But how can you identify and diagnose prostate cancer unless you do the screening?

The experts conclude that not all men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer will need to be treated immediately; some will be advised to do nothing except "watchful waiting."  The bottom line is that deciding whether to have yearly prostate screenings, and what to do with the results, is entirely up to you and your doctor.

The American Cancer Society website informs us that a risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person's age or family history, can't be changed. But risk factors don't tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others with this disease may have had few or no known risk factors.

Some common risk factors for prostate cancer include:

•  Race: Studies show that African American men are approximately 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer in their lifetime than Caucasian or Hispanic men.
•  Age: The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age.
•  Family history: Men with an immediate blood relative, such as a father or brother, who has had prostate cancer, are twice as likely to develop the disease. If there is another family member diagnosed with the disease, the chances of getting prostate cancer increase.
•  Diet: A diet high in saturated fat, as well as obesity, increases the risk of prostate cancer.
•  High testosterone levels: Men who use testosterone therapy are more likely to develop prostate cancer, as an increase in testosterone stimulates the growth of the prostate gland.

So, come on ladies, encourage your husband or significant other to sign up for our annual free prostate cancer screening this Saturday, Nov. 8, at the Backus Hospital main lobby conference rooms.  Call 860-892-6900 to make an appointment.  Then you can do like I do, and treat him to a nice restaurant meal as a reward. Who knows? You might end up sitting at the table next to my husband and I.

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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