By Mark Saunders
As a prostate cancer survivor and co-author of two books on the subject, I think it’s important to bring a little “awareness” to National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
The art and science of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment are changing rapidly.
For example, in July of this year, the New England Journal of Medicine published an article stating that the 10-year mortality rate for men with low-risk, low-volume, prostate cancer who elected to “observe” their cancer (In this study, observation ranged from doing nothing to making drastic lifestyle changes.) and those who had a “radical prostatectomy” (surgery) had statistically similar outcomes. In other words, approximately the same number of men died in both groups.
Fifteen years ago, that information would have been considered heresy, and any doctor who prescribed “observation” to their prostate cancer patients would have been sued for malpractice and drummed out of the profession. Today, it’s state-of-the-art information.
The general consensus on PSA testing has flip-flopped from “heaven sent” to a test that promotes too many invasive procedures like prostate biopsies and surgeries (which can leave men with lifelong “harms” such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction) to a good first line of defense against prostate cancer that signals there’s a problem going on in the prostate — without identifying what the problem actually is.
Today, there several new highly specific biomarker tests that pick up where PSA testing leaves off (PCA3, SelectMDx, and 4Kscore). These blood and urine tests can identify whether a man is likely to have prostate cancer or not; eliminating the need to jump straight from an elevated PSA test to a prostate biopsy.
If you or someone you know recently had a higher than normal PSA test, please let them know about these recent advances in biomarker testing.
There are also several new tests that enhance a prostate biopsy’s ability to detect the presence of prostate cancer — especially if the biopsy results come back negative (25% of negative biopsies are “false negatives”).
Even if the biopsy comes back positive for low-grade, low-risk prostate cancer, there are additional tests to determine if the cancer really truly is “low-grade, low-risk” — or if it is more aggressive (a wolf in sheep’s clothing).
This type of leading-edge information provides men (and the people who love them) with the ability to make smart prostate treatment decisions. Without this kind of information, people are likely to make their treatment decisions based on whatever the first doctor they see tells them to do.
In my opinion, National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month ought to begin with helping men become aware of their treatment options based on the kind of cancer (or other prostate condition) they have.
Mark B. Saunders is a writer, editor, publisher, public speaker, and 11-year cancer survivor. As an active surveillance prostate cancer patient, Mark did not receive traditional treatment like surgery or some form of radiation. Instead, he dramatically overhauled his lifestyle and his cancer went away and hasn’t come back since.
As a prostate cancer survivor, Mark has dedicated his life to sharing what he has learned about health and wellness. A journey that he calls, Inside out, round-about, and back again.