Free prostate cancer screenings in Linden this Saturday
Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2022
On Saturday, November 12, Linden will be the site for free prostate cancer screenings hosted by the Urology Health Foundation. The screenings are for men 40 years old or older. They will be available from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the Marengo County Health Department on 303 Industrial Drive. Face masks will be required, and no appointments are needed.
Prostate cancer is cancer of the prostate gland that sits between the bladder and the urethra in men. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control.
Dr. Thomas Moody of the UHF said prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, second only to skin cancer. Prostate cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, second only to lung cancer.
Age and race are the strongest risk factors for prostate cancer. African-American men are at particular risk for the disease, with the highest risk of prostate cancer of any ethnic group in the world.
“Prostate cancer also can be related to diet and overall health, not only in black men but in white men,” said Moody. “General good health will help lower your risk of prostate cancer. So, the way we advise people is we say whatever is heart healthy, is prostate healthy.”
A man’s risk of prostate cancer also increases if he has a close relative with the disease.
“Estimates for the year 2022 are that there will likely be around 268,490 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States with about 34,500 deaths,” said Moody. “In Alabama, it is estimated that there will be 4,650 new cases of prostate cancer, and almost 500 deaths this year.”
Moody said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a lot of routine medical care that didn’t get carried out, including cancer screenings. People were staying at home, emergency rooms were full, and some doctors’ clinics closed down during the first waves of the pandemic. Moody said now that people are going out again, cancers that would have been diagnosed during the pandemic are now being diagnosed and are worse than they would have been had they been caught earlier.
“We encourage everybody to come out and get checked. We’re just trying to get caught up so we can catch men with prostate cancer in its early stages,” said Moody. “It’s important to know that if prostate cancer is caught early, the survival rate is over 95 percent. If we get it early enough, it can almost always be cured.”
Screening for prostate cancer is the best way to get a diagnosis, as symptoms for this type of cancer are not as overt as they are in other cancers. Moody said that some men believe that they don’t need to get screened if they don’t have any symptoms.
“If you wait till you have trouble, it’s almost always too late. So the only way to find out if you have prostate cancer is to come in and get checked,” said Moody.
Screening for prostate cancer involves a simple blood test called a PSA that measures the level of a protein called prostate-specific antigen in the blood. Normally PSA is found in the blood at very low levels. Elevated PSA readings can be a sign of prostate cancer. A physical examination–called a digital rectal exam or DRE–is also given to detect prostate cancer. Together, these tests take about 10 minutes to perform and could save a man’s life.
“If those two things are normal, the man can rest easy and be fine until next year. We recommend that men get checked once a year,” said Moody.
A man’s age also plays a part in whether he develops prostate cancer. Moody said it is highly unusual for men under 40 to get prostate cancer, and as a man ages, his risk of prostate cancer increases.
“Our recommendation is that a man starts to get screened at age 40. And in general, get checked once a year, and continue to get checked until the patient and his doctor decide that it is no longer necessary. We don’t recommend having an arbitrary age after which you don’t need to be screened,” said Moody.
If a man does receive an early prostate cancer diagnosis, he can expect to have several treatment options available to him. One option is what is referred to as watchful waiting or active surveillance. Active surveillance and watchful waiting often means no immediate treatment but the patient is monitored with PSA blood tests and occasionally repeat prostate biopsies.
Active surveillance and watchful waiting can be a reasonable option for some men depending on the aggressiveness of the cancer and their particular health situation.
“There are some cancers out there that probably don’t need to be treated, believe it or not. If it’s a low-grade, low-stage cancer, it may not require treatment,” said Moody. “There have been a lot of advances in genetic testing for prostate cancer. So it’s possible in many cases to determine what cancers are likely to be problematic in the future and what cases are likely not to be problematic.”
Depending on how aggressive the cancer is, radiation therapy can be successful in curing some prostate cancers. Surgical removal of the prostate gland is a great option for some men.
“These are treatments for cancer that is localized to the prostate. If a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate, surgery and radiation may still be utilized. Still, almost always, other modalities are needed as well, such as hormone therapy and possibly chemotherapy. But for those cancers that are diagnosed early that are curable, it’s either watchful waiting or surgery or radiation,” said Moody.
Moody emphasized that the screenings in Linden are free to any man who wants to get checked for prostate cancer. He and his colleagues created the free screening program to remove financial barriers, an obstacle that was keeping many men from getting tested.
“We want men to come out, get checked, and do what they’re supposed to do. We tell them to take care of their health like women take care of their health by getting mammograms and pap smears,” said Moody. “Get checked for yourself, your family, and those who care about you. Screening only takes about 10 minutes, and those 10 minutes can save your life.”