September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness month.
And there’s a good reason to keep this type of cancer top of mind. According to the American Cancer Society, one in six men will develop prostate cancer in his lifetime. The disease is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and the second most common type of cancer in men (after skin cancer). The good news is, when found early, prostate cancer can be treated effectively.
The disease often causes no symptoms in its early stages, however, making routine screening a must. Men should begin talking with their primary care physicians about screening starting at age 50. Because prostate cancer is more common in African-American men, we recommend starting earlier, at age 40 if they have a family history of prostate cancer.
Because prostate cancer is often a slow-growing disease, when patients are diagnosed with early stage disease, doctors may advise “active surveillance” rather than immediate treatment. This means the patient is monitored with regular testing and a yearly biopsy to determine if the cancer has grown, at which point treatment can be started.
There’s more good news to share: advanced technologies give us multiple ways to fight prostate cancer. The latest is CyberKnife, which is a type of radiation therapy. We call it stereotactic radiosurgery because of its ability to destroy tumors with extreme knifelike precision, but there’s no actual cutting and patients experience minimal side effects. A major advantage of CyberKnife is that treatment lasts about five days, considerably less than traditional treatments.
Additional options to treat prostate cancer include:
- External beam radiation. This includes intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a type of three-dimensional radiation therapy in which thin beams of radiation of varying intensities are aimed at the tumor from many angles.
- Internal radiation, or brachytherapy. Small implants called ‘seeds’ containing radioactive material are implanted in the prostate through needles.
- Surgery. The tumor is removed through an incision.
- Hormonal treatment. Medication to reduce the level of the male hormone that stimulates prostate cancer cells will also shrink, or slow the growth of the cancerous tumor.
It can be a little overwhelming, but you can learn more about these treatment options at a community seminar I am hosting on Sept. 29. It will be held at Franklin Square Hospital Center from 5:30 to 7 p.m. It’s free, but space is limited and registration is required. To sign up, call 443-777-7900.