African American men are more likely than white men to be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime – a 1-in-7 chance versus a 1-in-8 chance for white men.
That’s why Christopher Keel, D.O., a urologist at USA Health, stresses the importance of screening, especially for African American men, so that prostate cancer can be caught early, when it is more treatable.
“It’s important to meet with your urologist to discuss treatment options and whether screening is right for you,” said Keel, who is the Urology Program director and an adjunct assistant professor of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.
The good news is that 86 percent of prostate cancer in African American men is diagnosed before it has spread, when the five-year survival rate approaches 100 percent. However, when it is diagnosed at a later stage, the five-year survival rate drops to 30 percent.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommends annual prostate cancer screening for African American men beginning at age 40 through age 75. Screening for prostate cancer is appropriate for some African American men over the age of 75, according to the guidelines.
“Not every patient diagnosed with prostate cancer through screening requires immediate treatment and, in some cases, never requires treatment,” said William Hixson, M.D., radiation oncologist and associate professor of interdisciplinary clinical oncology at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. Hixson added that while some cancers are aggressive and require immediate treatment, screening finds these more aggressive cancers sooner, providing the best possible outcome.
Keel, a urologist, said that fear of prostate cancer treatment should not discourage screening. He pointed out that new advanced therapies for prostate cancer are far more successful and far less invasive than they have been in the past.
“Many times, the patient can go home the same day with minimal, if any, side effects,” he said. “I think it’s important that men not be afraid of treatment because of misplaced expectations.”
Cassie Gurganus, certified genetic counselor, suggests that men also discuss their family history of prostate cancer with their physicians. “If we know that you have family members with prostate cancer, or family members with other cancers like breast and ovarian cancer, we may be able to offer you genetic testing. Genetic testing can tell us if screening should start earlier than age 40 and could also be important in determining a treatment plan for those diagnosed with prostate cancer.”