BOLIVAR, Mo. – Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Around 250,000 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed this last year, and approximately 24,000 men died from it. That’s according to Dr. Mark Walterskirchen with Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar.
During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Walterskirchen recommends men get themselves screened even if they feel okay.
“Folks say, ‘Oh yeah, I feel great. I can’t have prostate cancer’,” Dr. Walterskirchen said. “Well, our goal with screening is to diagnose something before they have the symptoms and before they are feeling not so good. Many times by the time they have symptoms, whether it’s colon cancer, prostate cancer or breast cancer, it may be too late.”
Dr. Walterskirchen says most men will get screened once a year starting at age 50. If someone has a family history of prostate cancer, they are encouraged to see a doctor sooner. He says African-Americans are encouraged to get screened at age 45.
If someone has two family members with prostate cancer, they are recommended to get checked out when they turn 40. A screening involves a blood test and a prostate exam. Dr. Walterskirchen says money shouldn’t be a concern.
“There are a lot of places, particularly in September with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month where we’ll do health fairs where you get a free screening panel,” Dr. Walterskirchen said. “Actually, that’s done many times throughout the year. Many churches and groups will do a health fair, and one of the tests involved will be the PSA blood test.”
PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen. He says people worried about their privacy during an exam should talk to their primary care doctor.
“Just coming in and talking to us does not mean that they are going to get their privacy invaded in anyways or exam,” Dr. Walterskirchen said. “But we can talk to them and offer them the options and let them decide. Shared decision-making is very important in this situation.”
Dr. Walterskirchen says if you get screened and find out you have prostate cancer, don’t panic. It’s not a death sentence.
“I tell my patients that prostate cancer is kind of like Baskin Robbin’s ice cream,” Dr. Walterskirchen said. “It comes in different flavors, from vanilla to rocky road and everything in between. It’s all prostate cancer, but different flavors and how it behaves is different. There are many men that need no treatment whatsoever. It’s very safe to watch. Other men may have a more aggressive form and need some intervention.”
Some forms of prostate cancer can go 30-40 years without giving someone any issues. Some types can require surgery, radiation or freezing.