Monday, October 22, 2012


Prostate screenings are essential to men's health

Prevention and health screenings are two big buzzwords in health care today.  But, with so much messaging geared towards awareness, why are so few men taking advantage of free prostate cancer screenings offered in the community?  

I decided to ask around to determine the reasons for the low turnout.  Several men I surveyed told me they avoid the required digital rectal exam at all costs. They wouldn’t admit to being fearful, just wanting to avoid it. 

I, myself, must admit that in past years a large percentage of the men who came to our annual prostate screenings were dragged in by their wives. Another man told me he gets an annual physical from his primary care provider, and the prostate exam and blood test (Prostatic Specific Antigen or PSA) are included.

Another said he was under the impression that the prostate screening tests are “unnecessary.”  I explained that there is indeed a lot of controversy about this topic.  The debate stems from the fact that in the past too many men were rushed to have biopsies when their PSA levels were elevated, instead of considering other possible causes of abnormal readings. 

Many physicians and patients are now choosing active surveillance, an increasingly common recommendation that involves monitoring the cancer instead of treatment.  But first you must have the PSA blood test to determine a baseline reading.

The latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society state: Starting at age 50, men should talk to a doctor about the pros and cons of testing. If they are African American, or have a father, brother or son who had prostate cancer before age 65, men should discuss the test with their doctor at age 45. If men decide to be tested, they should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. 

When I told the surveyed men that the American Cancer Society reports one in six men will have prostate cancer in their lifetime, they were completely unaware of this statistic.  Proportionately, more men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lives than women with breast cancer.  Research reveals that one in eight women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. 

So come on, men!   Don’t wait for a loved one to drag you by the ear.  If you haven’t had one in the past year, make an appointment, they are offered free locally.  Please, take good care of yourself.  

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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