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National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September 22, 2018
By Karen Blum , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and a good time to revisit what you know and don't know about this disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, aside from skin cancer. Approximately 164,690 men will be diagnosed with the disease in 2018 and about 29,430 are expected to die from prostate cancer this year. In Iowa, about 1,580 will be diagnosed and 300 will die from the disease.

Recent changes in prostate cancer screening recommendations may have left you confused about what to do. The Prevent Cancer Foundation recommends men ages 50 to 69 at average risk talk to their health care professionals about the pros and cons of prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing before making a decision. It's helpful to go into the doctor's office with some knowledge of prostate cancer to guide you in making an informed choice about whether or not to be tested.

Symptoms. In the early stages of prostate cancer, you are unlikely to experience symptoms. As it progresses, you may have weak or interrupted urine flow, difficulty starting or stopping the urine flow, frequent urination, blood in the urine or a burning sensation during urination. You might also experience painful or difficult erections or pain the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.

Risk Factors. African-American men are at much greater risk of prostate cancer than white men, and are more than twice as likely to die of the disease. Other risk factors are older age (about six in 10 cases are in men older than 65), family history of the disease and certain inherited conditions, such as Lynch syndrome or BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

Early Detection. PSA testing is the best screening method for prostate cancer, but it's far from perfect. PSA testing shows your PSA level-a high PSA level can indicate prostate cancer, but it could also be an indication of other non-cancerous issues, such as an enlarged prostate (BPH).

Testing can detect cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely, and early detection of prostate cancer followed by prompt treatment saves lives. But testing can also result in false positives, leading to unnecessary concern, biopsies or treatment, which can cause serious side effects or complications. Some men may be treated for prostate cancer that would never cause them harm. It's important to discuss these pros and cons with your health care professional to decide what is best for you. Testing is not recommended for men ages 70 and older.

Prevention. More research needs to be done on the effects of weight, diet and exercise on prostate cancer risk, but you may be able to reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and exercising regularly. If you smoke, quit. To learn more about cancer prevention, visit

Karen Blum is the spouse of Representative Rod Blum and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation's Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



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