COMMENTARY: The importance of prostate screenings

According to the Delaware Division of Public Health, prostate cancer ranks as the most common cancer and second-leading cause of cancer death among Delawarean men. These statistics demonstrate why regular prostate screenings are so important.

Men don’t talk about what’s going on with their bodies as much as women do. Or they’re afraid of or embarrassed by the prostate exam and, therefore, often put it off because they don’t have symptoms. This is a shame.

Michael Zaragoza M.D.

Education and awareness can help change these tendencies, which is why men should be aware of the following when it comes to prostate cancer and prostate screenings.

The three primary prostate cancer risk factors are age (50 or older), ethnicity (African-American) and family history (particularly a first-degree relative). If you’re African-American or have a family history, you’re more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer. Additionally, men can control certain risk-related factors, such as diets high in fat and low in fiber, obesity, and tobacco use, to decrease prostate cancer risk.

Prostate cancer typically shows no initial signs or symptoms. It’s advisable for men to get checked before symptoms occur, since new bone pain and/or weight loss, as well as blood in the urine, could mean that prostate cancer has already reached an advanced stage, when a cure is less likely.

Frequent urination is another symptom, but that’s also associated with normal age-related prostate enlargement.

Current prostate screening options are the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital rectal exam. The American Cancer Society recommends annual screenings beginning at age 50 unless you’re in the high-risk group; in that case, you should start prostate screenings at age 40.

The most important thing to remember is to get regular screenings, since prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause symptoms, particularly in the early stages.

Since there aren’t any “real symptoms for early-stage prostate cancer,” screening is essential. If you get screened regularly, then you have a greater chance of catching the cancer early, when the disease is most treatable. Early detection and treatment help increase survival rates,

If you need a doctor, visit or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627) to find one best suited to your needs.

Michael Zaragoza is a urologist with Bayhealth Medical Center.

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