Do you know what Colin Powell, Joe Torre, Sidney Poitier, Rudy Giuliani, Jerry Lewis, Robert De Niro, Harry Belafonte, John Kerry, Bob Dole, Chris Dodd, Norman Schwarzkopf and Arnold Palmer share in common? All were diagnosed with prostate cancer, yet continued as active leaders within their fields.
These are just a few of the better-known men in “the club,” among hundreds of thousands of American men diagnosed each year with prostate cancer in this contemporary era of prostate specific antigen screening.
The numbers are staggering. Ten million Americans have had cancer (there are more than 100 known types). One in two men gets cancer (50 percent chance) and 1 in 3 women gets cancer. The American Cancer Society predicts that 217,730 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year and 32,050 will lose their lives to this disease.
One in 6 men will develop prostate cancer. In the United States, prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. It is the second most common form of cancer in the world (skin cancer is number one). Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men, behind lung cancer.
However, in comparison to overall causes of death, only 3 to 5 percent of American men die from prostate cancer, while 35 percent of men die of heart disease. Ninety-four to 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive 10 to 20 years later. Prostate cancer is not a death sentence.
This good news derives from a four-pronged approach:
Prevention through lifestyle changes like diet and exercise (Prost-ate cancer is 70 percent lifestyle and 30 percent hereditary, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation).
Early diagnosis through prostate-specific antigen screenings plus a digital rectal exam.
Better treatment options for localized disease (cancer confined to prostate), including active surveillance as well as surgery and radiation, with fewer side-effects.
Better control of advanced disease (cancer outside prostate gland).
When prostate cancer is small, it is also silent, with no symptoms. That is why routine testing is so important to detect cancer as early as possible. Because of screening, most prostate cancer diagnosed today (93 percent) is found at an early stage and has not spread to other parts of the body.
In recent years, the press has reported on results of several scientific studies that at best have provoked discussion in the medical community of the advancing science, art and timing of screening for prostate cancer, as well as whether to swiftly treat every early localized disease or to “go slow,” monitoring the cancer (active surveillance) until treatment is needed. Unfortunately this discussion has led to much confusion among men and the public in general.
To help dispel this confusion and provide answers (and as part of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month), the specialists with the Hearst Cancer Resource Center at French Hospital Medical Center and The Wellness Community are offering a free educational forum about the disease. The forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the French Hospital Auditorium. Registration is required and a complimentary meal will be served.
Tom Comar is the president of the Central Coast Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants group and a prostate cancer survivor.