September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September 1, 2007

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men, with more than 218,000 men expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2007. In Colorado, approximately 3,160 cases of the disease will be diagnosed this year. However, as the American Cancer Society designates September Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, there is good news for Colorado men. Mortality rates for prostate cancer are declining thanks to early detection and advancements in treatment therapies.

According to The Urology Center of Colorado (TUCC), men over the age of 50 and African-American men over the age of 40 have a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Other common risk factors for the disease include race/ethnicity, genetics and diet.

“There are often no early symptoms of early stage prostate cancer, so early detection and screening are paramount,” said Richard Augspurger, M.D., TUCC medical director. “All men should undergo annual prostate cancer screenings beginning at age 50. High risk men such as African-Americans or men with a positive family history should begin these screenings at age 40.”

Prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed by a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam (DRE). PSA is a protein produced by the prostate cells which can be detected in the blood. A simple blood test can recognize an elevated PSA and indicate if further evaluation for prostate cancer is necessary. A DRE involves the assessment of the size, shape and consistency of a patient’s prostate gland. If either of these exams appear abnormal, additional exams such as biopsies, ultrasounds, CT scans and bone scans may be performed to determine the extent of the cancer.

After a physician consultation, prostate cancer can be treated through a variety of ways. Brachytherapy is a non-surgical form of treatment that involves the placement of small radioactive seeds directly into the prostate. These seeds cause little discomfort to the patient and remain in the prostate permanently.
Other forms of minimally invasive radiation therapy, such as external beam radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) or image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) may be used to treat prostate cancer.

“IMRT and IGRT are newer, more advanced forms of radiation therapy delivery that allow higher doses of radiation to be delivered to the prostate while decreasing the risk of exposure to the surrounding tissues,” said Reginald Westmacott, M.D., director of radiation oncology at TUCC. “With IMRT, the radiation beam is conformed directly to the planned treatment area. IGRT allows physicians to place metallic markers directly into the prostate to visualize changes in position before treatment and therefore more accurately deliver radiation treatment.”

Men diagnosed with prostate cancer may also be advised to undergo a radical prostatectomy, which is a surgical procedure where the entire prostate gland is removed. This procedure is usually performed in the early stages of the disease in order to prevent the spread of the cancer throughout the body. Select patients may also be advised to undergo the procedure through a robotic surgery known as the daVinci.

“The best prevention against prostate cancer is early detection through annual screenings,” said Stephen Ruyle, M.D., TUCC president. “However, advancements in treatments for the disease have resulted in current long-term cure rates greater than 80 percent, with cure rates upwards of 94 percent for patients detected at the earliest stage. Many men diagnosed with prostate cancer can successfully beat their disease.”

For more information on the detection and treatment of prostate cancer, please visit www.tucc.com or call 1.877.825.8898.