Get it checked!

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Ana Fadich

Monday, September 17, 2018

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Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, striking approximately 165,000 men each year with about 30,000 dying of the disease. It is second only to lung cancer as the deadliest cancer in men.

Caught early, prostate cancer can be treated, usually successfully. But remember, in early stages prostate cancer has no symptoms, so don't wait for “something bad” to happen to get it checked!

For almost 30 years doctors have had a powerful weapon in their arsenal for detecting prostate cancer. In addition to the digital rectal examination (DRE) — a physical exam allowing the doctor to feel the prostate — patients can have a simple blood test called a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) that will detect a many prostate problems early. Since the PSA has been used, prostate cancer deaths have declined and the number of successfully treated prostate cancer cases has risen.

During September — Prostate Cancer Awareness Month — Men's Health Network ( is urging men to talk to their health care providers about prostate cancer. They also encourage women to get involved and urge their husbands, fathers, brothers, and other loved ones to talk to their health care provider about prostate screening, including the PSA and DRE tests.

Let others know about the risks of prostate cancer and the potential benefits of screening. Posters, fact sheets, and a social media tool kit for use at your place of worship, where you work, and for your fraternity or sorority can all be downloaded for free at the website.

A federally staffed panel of experts, the US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), makes recommendations about screenings that health care providers look to for guidance. At its meeting in May of this year, the task force recommended that men age 55-69 should speak to their health care provider about using the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. But Men's Health Network, many other patient advocate organisations, and many health care providers don't think that goes far enough.

Men's Heath Network urges the following men to talk to their health care provider about routine prostate cancer screening:

• all men over age 50, and at age 40 for African Americans and others at high risk;

• men with a family history of prostate cancer;

• veterans exposed to Agent Orange; and

• men exposed to pesticides and certain other chemicals.

If you are on Medicare, prostate cancer screening is a part of your 'Welcome to Medicare' physical, the free comprehensive physical exam you receive in your first year of eligibility. But you may have to ask for the 'Welcome' physical since many health care providers don't seem to know about it. And, Medicare continues to cover prostate cancer screening in following years.

For younger men, over 30 states require that insurance companies offering health insurance in their state provide coverage for prostate cancer tests. Insurance companies may offer prostate cancer screening in the remaining states, but are not required to do so.

And, know your numbers! When you receive your PSA test results, ask the health care provider what your PSA number is, write it down, and compare it against future tests. If the number goes up in future tests, talk to your health care provider. Having an annual prostate exam, including a PSA test, just might save your life. No matter what age you are, that annual PSA test creates a benchmark to judge future tests against.

And ladies, if the men in your life don't want to make an appointment, do it for them and drive them to the health care provider's office if you have to!

No insurance and limited funds? Watch for free screenings in your area. Many health care providers, hospitals, clinics, and health fairs offer free prostate screenings in September and at other times during the year. Take any opportunity you can to get it checked (

Ana Fadich, MPH, CHES is vice-president of Men's Health Network and manages the organisation's day-to-day activities. She is chair, of the Men's Health Caucus of the American Public Health Association and author of several journal articles. Learn more on Twitter @MensHlthNetwork and Facebook at

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