Man to man? Get checked
While June is most notably associated with celebrating fathers, the month is also aptly denoted as National Men’s Health Month. This nationally recognized initiative promotes awareness about preventative healthcare practices, advocating early detection and treatment of diseases that most commonly affect males.
After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, with more than 2 million survivors in the United States.
This year, it is estimated more than 238,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the U.S. and more than 29,000 will die from the disease. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, and about one in 36 men will die from the disease.
The loss of our grandfathers, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and friends to this disease is simply staggering, especially considering that the five-year survival rate for men whose prostate cancer is diagnosed early is nearly 100 percent.
As a radiation oncologist, I have treated prostate cancer patients for more than 25 years with radiation therapy, using various external radiation and implant techniques, in addition to medicines. I helped pioneer a technique called High Dose Rate Radiation Implant, which led to research presented at scientific medical meetings in the U.S. and Europe.
June 15, 2012, I became the director of radiation oncology at the Julie and Ben Rogers Cancer Institute of Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas. Little did I know that my personal journey with prostate cancer also began that day. June 16, I attended a “Gift of Life” Prostate Cancer Screening Event at Baptist Hospital, where I discovered my own prostate-specific antigen (PSA) was slightly elevated.
At age 54, my chances of having prostate cancer were only 20 percent, but biopsies confirmed what was already suspected. Not only did I have the disease, but I had an aggressive variant — Gleason Score 9, the kind that kills! I underwent Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT), Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Radiation Implant, completing my treatment program in November 2012. My PSA is now undetectable and I will continue on ADT for another year.
There is considerable controversy about the need to undergo PSA testing or even to seek treatment. While it is true that men with low Gleason Score cancers or co-existing serious medical conditions may not benefit from treatment, men like me would die quickly without intervention. Indeed, I might not be alive today had I not been screened.
Men should never take their health for granted, and I encourage age-appropriate men to consult with their local physician for screening information. My life was saved because of early detection, and my advice as physician, patient and fellow man is to get checked!
For a related story, click here: http://theexaminer.com/stories/news/jefferson-county-declares-june-men’s-health-month