Medical professionals frequently talk about cancer screenings, and with good reason — early detection saves lives. Unfortunately, that message often goes unheard by men, who tend to be less likely than women to have an annual check-up and take other preventive measures around good health.
That lack of attention to all things medical can have consequences. Not having a primary care physician and not having some important preventive screenings can lead to illness and even death.
Consider prostate cancer, the third most common cause of cancer-related death in men. According to the CDC, Tennessee ranks fairly high in that regard — up to 21 deaths for every 100,000 residents — but according to the American Cancer Society, men whose prostate cancer is detected in the early stages have an almost 100% survival rate.
Who needs a check-up?
OK, so screenings are important; now who should get them?
First of all, any man over 40 years old should have a prostate check as part of a yearly physical. That’s an important baseline, but a regular check is even more important for some guys due to specific risks.
The high-risk pool for prostate cancer includes men who:
- Are African-American
- Are older than 69
- Have a father or brother with prostate cancer
- Abuse or have abused alcohol
- Have been exposed to cadmium, a toxic metal found in some industrial workplaces
- Eat a diet high in fat, especially animal fat
- Farmers, painters and tire plant workers (possibly due to exposure to chemicals)
What are the signs of prostate cancer?
Of course, anyone experiencing symptoms should see his physician, even if he falls outside the high-risk groups.
Here’s a rundown of trouble signs:
- Delayed or slowed start of urinary stream
- Dribbling or leakage of urine
- Slow urinary stream
- Straining when urinating
- Inability to empty all urine
- Blood in the urine
- Bone pain or tenderness in the lower back or pelvic bones (a sign of advanced cancer)
How do doctors test for prostate cancer?
Much in the same way prostate cancer has a high success rate for treatment if caught early, the tests for it are quick and easy:
- Digital rectal exam: Your doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to assess the size and feel of the prostate for lumps or other abnormality.
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test: This blood test checks the PSA level in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate, and its levels can be higher in men who have prostate cancer, as well as other prostate-specific conditions.
How is prostate cancer treated?
If a problem is detected, there are several routes to go when it comes to treatment. Because prostate cancer is relatively slow growing compared to other cancers, some patients may be allowed to monitor the cancer with a set schedule of PSA tests and biopsies. Surgery is also one option, as are radiation, hormone and drug therapy.
The only way to ward off prostate cancer, however, is to monitor for it and catch it as early as possible. To do that, all men should be screened — and an easy way to do that is by setting up a physical, and then getting a check-up every year to nip any other problems in the bud as well.
To learn more about the essential health screenings all men need, click here.
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.