As discussed in last monthís blog, prostate cancer screening is controversial. How do you know if itís right for you? The American Urological Association recommends that all men between the ages of 55 and 69 have a discussion with their doctor regarding the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening, taking into account each manís individual situation. Men who are African American, have a family member afflicted with prostate cancer, or have worsening problems with urination are at higher risk of developing or harboring prostate cancer. These men should consider beginning screening at an earlier age, and as needed if urinary symptoms are present.
Harms associated with prostate cancer screening include the risk of undergoing a prostate biopsy, particularly infection, and the risk of undergoing treatment for prostate cancer when treatment was not necessary.
In general, it takes 10 to 15 years to achieve maximum benefit after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. This is because a typical prostate cancer is relatively slow growing and problems, including death, often develop after 10 years. In other words, it does not make sense to undergo screening and treatment of prostate cancer if other medical conditions are likely to shorten your life. For example, if you are a former or active smoker, and are admitted to the hospital multiple times yearly with exacerbation of your COPD/emphysema, it is likely that your lung condition, and not prostate cancer, will be your life limiting disease. Prostate cancer screening in this scenario is unlikely to be beneficial. The life expectancy of an American man is 76 years. Many authorities believe that older men should not undergo screening as they are unlikely to derive benefit.
That said, regardless of age, if you are predicted to live at least 10 years, screening may be right for you. If you are found to have prostate cancer, your treatment options will be based on the risk category of the tumor. This will be discussed in greater detail in next weekís blog. Even if you are found to have prostate cancer that is advanced and/or has spread, treatment can prolong the length and quality of your life.
Again, this is not an easy topic. We at Arizona State Urological Institute would be happy to discuss this in further detail, addressing the particulars of your situation.
Please call (480) 394-0200 to schedule an appointment.