September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among American men. For reasons that are still unknown, African American men are more likely to get prostate cancer than men from other racial/ethnic groups. They are also twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as other men.
You may have heard about these higher risks from a news story, or from friends or family. You may also have heard about prostate cancer screening and wondered if you should be screened. Cancer screening tests check for the disease before a person has symptoms. The goal of cancer screening is to decrease the risk of dying of the target cancer by picking it up at a sufficiently early stage.
As you may have heard or read, there is a controversy about whether the benefits of prostate cancer screening outweigh the harms. Some doctors screen some men for prostate cancer with the PSA blood test and with a digital rectal exam.
Most groups also recognize that screening is an individual decision that is between a man and his doctor. Many men may want to know more about prostate cancer screening, especially if a close male relative, such as their father or brother, has had the disease. You can ask your doctor questions to help decide whether screening is right for you.
To learn more about prostate cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website at www.cancer.gov (search term: prostate) or call 1-800-4-CANCER (that’s 1-800-422-6237). NCI has extensive information on prostate cancer risk, prevention, screening, treatment, clinical trials, and many other topics.