Timely Screening and Health Exams for Prostate Cancer Still Save the Lives of Men

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer News

Despite the recent calls by the US Preventive Services Tasks Force that men of any age should not be screened with the PSA test, there are still support for the tests.

The support for the test is coming from patients who have benefited from early screening using the test. These supports collaborate with those made by other doctors and health organizations emphasizing the importance of PSA screening and early tests for prostate cancer.

Below is an extract from the Internet highlighting the support provided by two individuals that are satisfied with early tests and diagnoses carried out on them:

Like many men, the Rev. Andrew Penns never really thought he would have to contend with prostate cancer.

But unlike some, that didn’t stop him from getting tested regularly anyway.

Penns, 63, recently had surgery for prostate cancer, the disease — fortunately, he said — caught in an early stage.

Although there is some controversy about methods of treatment and detection of prostate cancer, to Penns the information from a timely scope and biopsy, following on information derived from earlier screenings, was invaluable in helping him make his decision.

“It had not spread, it was contained within the prostate itself,” he said. “I went ahead and made the decision to have surgery.”

To Penns, the peace of mind provided was worth the pain and inconvenience.

Penns said he has, especially for the past 10 to 12 years, been sure to get his health checkups and screenings on a regular basis, and is now “glad and proud that I did.”

“Men must not feel that they’re invincible,” he said. “Prostate, colon and other cancers take people out every day.”

Such illnesses, and others, are no respecter of race, class, faith or profession, he said, though he added he was especially interested in encouraging black men to get regularly tested for health concerns.

“I never thought it would happen to me, but it happened,” Penns said of his illness, adding that he is now back to being active in his church, serving on boards and living more-or-less his normal life.

Passing the test

Steve Gao, an Abilene internist, said he understands the value of timely health screenings for men, while also knowing that some shun them.

“I’m a prime example; I still think I’m 30 years old,” he said, noting that like many men, as “long as I’m not feeling sick,” he tends to think all is well.

But Gao, 52, got his own wake-up call at a recent health screening provided by Hendrick Health System, during which he discovered his cholesterol was high.

Although he said he thinks that awareness is “pretty good” overall in Abilene, he is concerned about the number of men he sees smoking, as well as a need for more exercise among some of his patients — something that, again, Gao has tried to practice more himself.

“You can find 35-45 minutes (to exercise) a day,” he said. “I don’t care how busy you are, I think you can find that time — I have — to do it.”

Gao said he would like to see more businesses offer incentive to employees, male or female, to help them join a health club or integrate more exercise into their lives.

Government guidelines recommend several screenings at various stages of life, some depending on whether one smokes, others on factors such as family risk.

Among the most common, men should, according to healthfinder.gov and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:

Get their blood pressure checked at least once every two years. Higher blood pressure may require more frequent tests or treatment.

Get their cholesterol checked every five years. When you should start getting tested depends on your risk for heart disease. Anyone older than 40 should get a cholesterol test regularly.

Get tested for colorectal cancer if older than 50, continuing through age 75.

“If there’s a family history of colon cancer, then it’s recommended you start screening 10 years earlier,” Gao said.

Get screened for diabetes if blood pressure is higher than 135/80, or if taking medicine for high blood pressure.

Talk to one’s doctor about abdominal aortic aneurysm if one is age 65 to 75 and has ever smoked. The condition is a localized widening of a blood vessel, specifically the aorta, one of the large arteries that pass blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Recent changes

Changes in recommendations for prostate cancer screening have come down this year, Gao said.

“This year, the Preventive Service Task Force recommended against using PSA (tests) as a prostate screening tool,” he said, going against custom of the past few years to use the test, citing risks of side effects.

“Looking at the literature, it makes statistical sense to not do it because in the end, it doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “But I still think you should check (men), talk to them every year, check the rest of their risk factors in terms of cholesterol, sugars and do a rectal exam to just check the prostate.”

Heart disease is a “prevalent thing” in this area, Gao said, though the risk factors — diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and obesity — are well-known.

Adjusting or eliminating such factors can go a long way, he said, in improving one’s health.

Upon hitting age 45, according to healthfinder.gov, and through age 79, men should ask their doctors if they should take aspirin every day to help lower their risk of a heart attack. According to the guidelines, “how much aspirin you should take depends on your age, your health, and your lifestyle.”

Regular vaccines also are important preventives, Gao said, no matter what one’s gender.

For example, a new prevalence of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, in children has prompted health experts to recommend that all adults get vaccinated with a new version of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) shot, he said, while vaccination against shingles is another important health measure for older people.

Also, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a shingles vaccine for adults older than 60 and vaccines for pneumonia for those 65 and older, or with specific health conditions. Source.

So, with details of the extract above, the importance of early detection and screening for prostate cancer cannot be ignored. The US Task Force has made its point by declaring that the risk of screening outweighs the benefits, however going for the test should be matter of choice.

Many medical experts and patients (like those above) still support the screening and this should not be ignored. They still speak for thousands of people out there.

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