2007-09-05 / Health

Test to ensure prostate health

Augusta, Ga. -- Two simple tests can help detect prostate cancer early, and may even save your life.

Urologists and other physicians at MCG Health System continue to recommend that men age 50 or older undergo two quick tests to check for signs of prostate cancer, while African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer should begin prostate cancer checks at age 40. The tests are:

• A physical exam, consisting of a digital rectal exam. The digital rectal exam looks for firmness or lumps and bumps on the gland's surface.

•A blood test, which measures the level of prostate specific antigen. The test checks if levels of PSAwhich rise if the prostate is enlarged-are normal.

In most cases, prostate cancer is a slow-growing cancer, so regular testing enables physicians to findit early. Early detection is particularly important since prostate cancer in its early stages often has no symptoms. By the time symptoms occur, the cancer has often spread and may be untreatable.

Results from the physical exam and blood test may indicate a need for further testing, such as a biopsy. If a biopsy confirmsthe presence of cancer, finding it early gives patients the most treatment options.

Thanks to advances in treatment techniques, a cure is possible for a large percentage of men with the disease. Treatments include:

• Prostate removal, via traditional or laparoscopic (minimally invasive) methods

• Radiation therapy, including implantation of radioactive seeds in the prostate (brachytherapy)

• Chemotherapy

• Investigational therapies such as cryotherapy

• Hormone therapy

Those at particular risk for prostate cancer continue to be:

• African-American men.

• Older men. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age.

• Those whose diet is high in animal fat. It has been found that obesity makes prostate cancer harder to detect.

• Those with a family history. If a man's father or an older brother has had prostate cancer, he is at increased risk.

While no clear cause for prostate cancer has been found, experts believe there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of this and other cancers. If you are a smoker, quit. Get plenty of exercise. And a recent small study suggests that a low-fat diet combined with regular exercise and stress management can help lower PSA levels.

All men should become aware of the risk factors and take steps, including having annual checkups, to help decrease their risk of developing prostate cancer.

MCG Health System is composed of three organizations MCG Health Inc. and the clinical services offered by the faculty of the Medical College of Georgia and the members of the MCG Physicians Practice Group. MCG Health, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation operating the MCG Medical Center, MCG Children's Medical Center, the MCG Sports Medicine Center, MCG Ambulatory Care Center, the Georgia Radiation Therapy Center and related clinical facilities and services. MCG Health, Inc. was formed to support the research and education mission of the Medical College of Georgia, and to build the economic growth of the CSRA, the state of Georgia and the Southeast by providing an environment for delivering the highest level of primary and specialty health care. For more information, please visit www. MCGHealth.org.

Return to top