Prostate cancer affects 1 in 6 men in the US and is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men. As a result, it affects not just the men battling the disease but also their families, friends and communities. That’s why the White House has declared September to be National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Fortunately, advances in diagnosis and treatment have led to a 40 percent reduction in prostate cancer deaths since the mid-1990s, and 90 percent of all prostate cancers are now discovered before they spread outside the prostate gland, according to ZERO, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the disease. One of the key tools is the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, which tests for a certain protein made in the prostate gland. Normally, very little should be found in the blood. As a result, rising PSA scores may indicate a prostate problem, which could be cancer or an enlarged prostate. Further testing with a biopsy or MRI is required to determine if abnormal PSA results indicate prostate cancer.
Who’s most at risk? The most important factor is age, as the older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. More than 65% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over the age of 65, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and the average age for diagnosis in the US is 69 years. Race also factors into the risk, as African American men are 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer compared to Caucasian men and nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from it. In addition, a family history (specifically, having a father or brother who developed the disease) doubles your risk of prostate cancer.
Do you have a hard time getting to the doctor, perhaps because of your schedule or insurance situation? Throughout September and into the fall, ZERO is offering free, confidential PSA tests via their roving testing trucks. Stops include New York City, Baltimore, Costa Mesa, Phoenix, Tucson and Atlanta. Check out the full calendar here. If you’re already living with prostate cancer, connect with the 300+ members of PatientsLikeMe who report this condition and find out how 10+ of them evaluate prostatectomy as a treatment option.
For even more insight, check out our interview with prostate cancer survivor, author and activist Dan Hennessey.