Prostate Health: To Screen, or Not to Screen

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]By: Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]As every Primary Care Physician knows, men don’t like to go to the doctor. In Latin culture – and I’ve found this to be true with men of many cultures – a false sense of “machismo” gets in the way of having an annual wellness exam and a forthright discussion of symptoms and concerns, especially when it comes talking about sexual health.

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which serves as an important reminder for men to start a conversation with their doctor about a topic they may be too embarrassed to talk about.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men – behind skin cancer – and the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 26,000 men will die from this disease in 2017. One in two men are diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime, compared to one in three women.

The risk of developing prostate cancer largely depends on family history; you have a much higher risk if your father, brother, or a close blood relative has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. The first discussion I have with my patients is whether or not to get tested. Patients generally think that it can’t hurt to get tested for an illness if their doctor recommends it. Prostate cancer is an exception because early detection and treatment may not improve health or lifespan and can cause side effects like loss of bladder control and sexual function. The decision to get screening is not simple, and the pros and cons should be reviewed with your doctor.

Prostate cancers usually grow slowly. Most men with prostate cancer are 65 or older and do not die from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer has a five-year relative survival rate of 99 percent, a 10-year relative survival rate of 98 percent, and a 15-year relative survival rate of 96 percent. This means that men who have prostate cancer are very likely to live as long as men who don’t have prostate cancer.

Know the early warning signs:  

  • Painful or difficult urination
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Reduced urinary flow or velocity
  • Blood in the urine

If you experience these symptoms, don’t delay in talking with your physician. Come to the appointment with questions and concerns. Talk about your family medical history. Don’t be shy;  no topic is off limits.

Your doctor’s job is to help you stay healthy, not just to treat you when you’re sick! Here are a few tips for good prostate health, as well as good health in general:

  • See your doctor regularly! Starting at 50, you should be getting screened for prostate cancer annually. If you have a family history, start going at 45.
  • Exercise regularly. You should aim for 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, several days a week; men who climb 50 steps or walk 5 city blocks a day may lower their risk of heart attack by 25 percent.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Red fruits such as tomatoes and watermelon have high levels of lycopene, which may help reduce the risk for prostate cancer.
  • Don’t smoke. Tobacco use has been found to increase the risk for prostate cancer.
  • Reduce the amount of red meat you consume. While poultry is always a good option, the omega-3 acids in salmon and tuna may help lower the risk of getting prostate cancer.

At ACP, our network of physicians and specialists in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens are laser-focused on delivering high-quality, culturally sensitive, patient-centered care. Your doctor is there to help! Remember your annual wellness visit to stay healthy and catch any issues early.