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Men must stay alert for prostate cancer

September is national Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer affects more men than any other cancer, and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States.

The Sierra Nevada Cancer Center is committed to increasing community awareness about prevention and early detection of cancers. Here is some information you should have about prostate cancer, and some opportunities for learning more.

More than 20,500 men in California will be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer, and more than 3,000 men will die from it. One of every 10 men will develop prostate cancer at some time in his life, and the chances of developing it increase with age. More than 80 percent of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men 65 or older.



Now for the good news: When prostate cancer is found in its earliest stage, the five-year survival rate exceeds 90 percent. Prostate cancer that is confined to the inner lining of the prostate can be removed surgically (a radical prostatectomy) or effectively treated with one of two types of radiation therapy – external beam radiation or implantation of “seeds” which emit radiation from within the prostate. Hormonal therapies may be used with either surgery or radiation treatments.

If the cancer is allowed to grow, it will move outside the prostate, spread to the lymph nodes and metastasize into other organs of the body, most often the bones. Many men are successfully treated at later stages, but the prognosis becomes less positive as the cancer spreads.




Prostate cancer in its earliest stages will usually produce no symptoms. By the time symptoms occur and the individual seeks treatment, the cancer has usually spread outside the prostate gland.

To find prostate cancer in its early stages, men must be screened – tested for the cancer in the absence of symptoms. There are two screening tests commonly used for prostate cancer: a PSA blood test and a rectal examination.

The blood test measures PSA (prostate specific antigen) in the blood. All men will have some level of PSA, but if the level begins to rise, it can indicate a problem. Several conditions can cause an elevated PSA besides prostate cancer. If the physician is concerned about an elevated PSA, he or she will do a biopsy or other tests to look for cancer.

The rectal exam involves the physician inserting a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and feeling the back of the prostate through the colon, looking for enlargement or lumps.

The Sierra Nevada Cancer Center recommends that men consider getting a PSA blood test and a rectal examination yearly beginning at age 50. If there is a family history of prostate cancer, the screening should begin sooner.

Sierra Nevada Cancer Center will be holding a community forum on prostate cancer and providing low-cost screening on Saturday, Oct. 5. These will be held in the Outpatient Center conference rooms at Sierra Nevada Hospital.

PSA tests will be offered for $15, and rectal exams will be provided at no cost. The screening will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The community forum will start at 10 a.m. Speakers will cover various aspects of prostate cancer prevention (including nutritional guidelines), detection and treatment. For more information this event, contact Jim Perkins, oncology education coordinator, at 274-6613.

The cancer center is also involved in a national prevention clinical trial called the SELECT trial. This trial will involve over 32,000 men in determining whether taking supplements of selenium and/or vitamin E can prevent prostate cancer.

We are looking for 100 men to participate in the study. To be eligible, men must be 55 years of age or older, never have had prostate cancer, not have had any other cancer (except skin cancer) for the past five years, and be in generally good health.

Over the course of eight to 10 years, participants will take daily supplements of selenium and/or vitamin E – or placebo. We will provide more information about SELECT on Oct. 5, or interested men can call our clinical trials coordinator, Julie Ann Garrett, at 274-6635.

The cancer center also conducts a monthly prostate cancer information group, and our oncology education coordinator will speak to any organization or group about prostate or other common cancers.

I hope that you never develop prostate cancer. But if you do, I can assure you that our local physicians and our cancer center are here to provide you with top-quality, state of the art diagnostic and treatment services. You can help us treat you by getting tested regularly, and encouraging your family and friends to do so, as well.

Dr. David Kraus was appointed medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in April of this year. Dr. Kraus was selected for inclusion in “The Best Doctors in America: Midwest Region” in 1997 when working in Indiana.

Low-Cost tests

Sierra Nevada Cancer Center will be holding a community forum on prostate cancer and providing low-cost screening on Saturday, Oct. 5. These will be held in the Outpatient Center conference rooms at Sierra Nevada Hospital.


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