Many people are shy when it comes to discussing prostate cancer. Viewed as a personal, private disease, prostate cancer is too often discussed in hushed tones. But hushed tones can’t educate. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a month devoted to educating men (and women) about prostate cancer statistics, symptoms, prevention and early detection. Let’s make it a “September Resolution” to get talking.
This year, an estimated 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and an estimated 29,480 will die from the disease. Prostate cancer is a serious disease, but fortunately, with early detection and treatment, it does not have to be fatal. The relative five-year survival rate is almost 100%, and more than 2.5 million men in the United States are prostate cancer survivors.
Women: prostate cancer may not directly affect you, but you can play a role in preventing it by educating the men in your life about ways to reduce their risk. Men: here’s what you need to know to reduce your risk for prostate cancer.
5 facts about prostate cancer:
- Most prostate cancer is diagnosed in men older than 65. At 50, start talking with your health care professional about the pros and cons of getting tested—or not getting tested. While early detection and treatment can be key to saving lives, some men are diagnosed with prostate cancer that will never affect them, and then have to deal with the side effects of treatment. There have also been issues with inaccurate diagnoses. It’s a personal decision that you should talk about with your doctor.
- African American men and Caribbean men of African ancestry are at higher risk. African American men are also more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage, and more than twice as likely to die from the disease as white men.
- Men with a family history of prostate cancer are also at higher risk. Your family history of cancer should be an ongoing discussion, as it plays a huge role in what you need to be doing to reduce your risk. If you have a close relative (father or brother) who had prostate cancer before age 65, start talking to your doctor about prostate cancer when you are 45. If more than one of your close male relatives had prostate cancer before 65, start that talk when you turn 40.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and not smoking can reduce your risk. Toss out the cigarettes, start incorporating fruits and veggies into your diet and get moving!
- Know the symptoms. Urinary problems, a painful or difficult erection and pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs are all symptoms of prostate cancer. If you are experiencing any of these, talk to your doctor.
Having a doctor that you feel comfortable with is key to preventing cancer of any kind. Encourage the men over 50 in your life to develop a trusting relationship with a medical professional, and seek the information that could save their lives.
Let’s make a pact to promote prostate cancer prevention and early detection this month (and every month!) for the men in our lives. They’re worth it.