Rise in advanced prostate cancer has doctors encouraging proactive testing

According to the American Cancer Society, the U.S. cancer death rate has dropped by 33% since 1991.

However, there has been an increase in diagnoses of men with advanced late-stage prostate cancer.

“Since 2011, the diagnosis of advanced-stage (regional- or distant-stage) prostate cancer has increased by 4% to 5% annually and the proportion of men diagnosed with distant-stage disease has doubled,” an article posted to the American Cancer Society’s pressroom states.

“There’s not anything you can eat or drink to prevent prostate cancer. Nothing that you do or don’t do that causes prostate cancer. Right now, it’s just being male, having a prostate and living long enough,” Dr. Michael Selva, a radiation oncologist at the San Antonio Cancer Center, said.

While cervical and lung cancers have seen significant improvement in their mortality and diagnosis thanks to vaccines and habit changes, there are currently no preventative measures for prostate cancer.

This is an unfortunate fact for men like Phillip Bakke, who was diagnosed at 55.

“It’s something that’s completely treatable, especially if you detect it early. But if you don’t, it’ll treat you,” Bakke said.

Right now, doctors recommend men over the age of 50 get their Prostate-Specific Antigen or PSA test done yearly.

Bakke missed some tests because of the pandemic. In 2021, he was diagnosed with cancer, had his prostate gland removed and underwent radiation.

“It’s a simple blood draw, can, can really save you a lot of, a lot of problems down the road,” Bakke said.

Dr. Selva treated Bakke and he said it’s important for men to be their own advocates, not only pushing for yearly PSA tests but also tracking their own numbers.

“If your PSA for the last five years, 10 years has been one, and then this year it’s three, it just tripled. Something’s going on,” Dr. Selva said.

Prostate cancer if caught early is very treatable, but if caught late, curability is off the table.

“At some point, prostate cancer is no longer curable. It becomes controllable. So if it spreads, you’re no longer treated for cure. You’re treating for control,” Dr. Selva said.

This is why Bakke encourages all men to test and act early.

“If you don’t catch them early, then you really have a problem. And it’s really hard to play from, from behind. So no pun intended,” Bakke said.

The American Cancer Society is working to address the disparities with a new initiative called IMPACT – Improving Mortality from Prostate Cancer Together by focusing on community outreach to people most affected by prostate cancer.

Also, the initiative will fund new cancer research programs connecting labs and clinics to community members.

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