More education needed on prostate cancer screening and treatment options
Steve Garvey sparked the Padres to their first World Series with his walk-off homer in game 4 of the 1984 National League Championship Series.
He made headlines of a different sort recently when he placed his personal baseball memorabilia up for auction to raise funds for prostate cancer awareness.
Garvey’s efforts drive home the need for greater public education about screening and treatment options for the disease. September is national prostate cancer awareness month.
Carl Rossi, MD, medical director of the Scripps Proton Therapy Center, helps shed light on what has become one of the most confusing areas for men to navigate in health care today.
Is prostate cancer screening recommended?
Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended an end to all routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. But regular PSA testing has led to earlier and more sensitive detection of the disease. And the cure rate for prostate cancer has increased significantly since PSA testing became widespread in the early 1990s. Men should talk to their doctor about getting screened regularly starting at age 50 (and earlier for African-Americans and those with significant urinary symptoms or a family history of prostate cancer).
Should men seek treatment or surveillance?
Overall, a significant percentage of men diagnosed with prostate cancer may never physically suffer from it. Problem is, the predictability of disease progression becomes much fuzzier on an individual patient level. Patients who choose surveillance over intervention need to know that their cancer can change during their period of “watchful waiting” and that their “cure window” can possibly slam shut without their knowing about it.
Which prostate cancer treatment is best?
There are more treatment choices than ever before for prostate cancer including open surgery, robotic surgery, X-ray radiation and proton radiation. Patients should take two to three months to explore all of their options (unless they have a high-grade tumor that requires immediate treatment). Men should explore the pros and cons of each treatment, and confer with family and physicians to arrive at an informed decision that is best for their individual situation, based on both medical facts and personal choice.
For example, if a patient chooses radiation treatment, will he be worried knowing his prostate gland is still in his body? If so, surgery might be an option. But with surgery comes other possible concerns, like the potential for incontinence. And patients who choose surveillance should understand their cancer may change over time and eventually become more problematic to treat.
Scripps has been the official health care provider to the Padres since 1981. To find a Scripps physician, call 1-800-SCRIPPS.
- Stephen Carpowich