It may be unconventional to write about a disease affecting men on a website geared toward moms. Indeed, it is probably not something many women think about on a daily basis, but September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I thought it would be a good opportunity to shed light on an issue that many women someday may indirectly be dealing with.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the US, other than non-melanoma skin cancers. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. Approximately 1 in 10 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime. It is usually a disease of older men and exceedingly rare to be diagnosed in men less than 40. There are genetic conditions that can increase one’s risk, similar to breast cancer. Most cases may have an indolent course, though some can be more aggressive.
For many cancers, early detection improves survival. There are screening methods recommended for various different cancers such as mammography for breast cancer, PAP smears for cervical cancer, and colonoscopy for colorectal cancers. The use of a blood test called PSA (prostate specific antigen) is widely used as a screening method for prostate cancer, but over the years its use has led to controversy. Questions have been raised about its accuracy and whether it leads to over diagnosis and unnecessary medical procedures with adverse effects. Regardless, most physicians agree to an open discussion with their patients about the risks and benefits of screening, leading to a shared-decision making process.
Some Men Don’t Want to Talk
Often times the psychologic aspects of a prostate cancer diagnosis are overlooked. Some men may avoid discussion of the emotional consequences of such a disease. Shock, fear, anger, and denial may accompany a new diagnosis. Some men may feel that their identity has changed completely. Treatment almost always involves hormonal manipulation, and can lead to unwanted side effects such as decreased libido, fatigue and depression. Many of us know of – or someday will know of – a family member or close friend diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is important to consider the emotional aspect of any cancer diagnosis, but particularly prostate cancer, in my opinion, because of its own unique challenges.
There has been much progress in the treatment for prostate cancer and there is certainly more to come in terms of research and development. With September here, let us remember our fathers, brothers, uncles, husbands and friends who have been affected by this disease and continue to offer our support, empathy, and encouragement.