Office Visit: Men’s Health Month

Office Visit: Men’s Health Month

Lee esto en EspañolBy Joseph R. Cunningham, M.D.

June is Men’s Health Month, and it’s a good reminder for you or the men in your life to speak to a doctor about prostate health. It’s more important than you might realize: one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society

Prostate cancer is the second-most prevalent cancer in men, behind skin cancer. The prostate is a gland found just below the bladder in males, and as men age, the likelihood of cancer developing within the gland increases. While prostate cancer can be fatal, it has a high survival rate, especially when detected early.

There is no surefire way to prevent prostate cancer, but you can lower your risk by staying fit, refraining from tobacco, and eating a healthy diet. However, many risk factors can’t be changed, including race, family history, and most notably age. Prostate cancer is rare under age 40; the American Cancer Society   reports that 60 percent of cases are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older, with the average age at diagnosis being 66.

Warning signs include changes to the frequency or flow of urination, chills or fever, and pain in the lower back, belly, groin or scrotum. While some of these symptoms could indicate cancer, it’s important to note that symptoms alone do not indicate cancer and may be completely unrelated. On the other hand, it’s possible to have prostate cancer without experiencing symptoms.

Should you get screened? The best approach is to speak with your doctor about your risk factors and symptoms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force   suggests men ages 55 to 69 may benefit from screening for prostate cancer, even if they present no symptoms, but routine screenings are not generally recommended for men after age 70.

A common prostate cancer test, the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, can be helpful in detecting cancer early, per the Mayo Clinic However, there are pros and cons for testing for prostate cancer. Your doctor can explain your options and help you make the right choice for you.

I understand prostate health isn’t something most men are keen on discussing. While it may be uncomfortable to talk to your doctor about your prostate, it could save your life.

Dr. Joseph R. CunninghamJoseph R. Cunningham, M.D. is the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company.

(For more Office Visit columns by Dr. Cunningham, visit The Journal Record.) 

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