September 2008 is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Prostate cancer is the number one cancer among men. One out of 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. The good news is that since 1994, the death rate from prostate cancer has decreased 4 percent each year. In 2004, there were 2 million prostate cancer survivals in the United States.

Li-fen L. Chang, MD, senior medical director of Radiation Oncology at Southern Ohio Medical Center, says the successful decrease in the prostate cancer mortality rate is due to several factors.

“Early detection save lives,” Dr. Chang says. “Successful screening using DRE (digital rectal examination) and PSA (prostate specific antigen, a blood test) helps detect prostate cancer at an earlier, more curable stage.”

Dr. Chang also credits improvements in prostate cancer treatment with increasing survival rates. One new development in surgical removal of the prostate is robotic-assisted prostatectomy, which shortens recovery time.

“Radiation therapy has also dramatically improved in the past decade,” she says. “Treatments are much more precise and tailored to the patient’s individual anatomy, resulting in less damage to surrounding healthy tissue, fewer side effects and faster recovery.” Dr. Chang noted that the SOMC Cancer Center offers some of the most advanced technologies for treating prostate cancer.

“Using testosterone suppression therapy in conjunction with radiation therapy or surgery is also a better treatment approach for high-risk patients,” she says, adding that research and new developments are continuing with approaches such as targeted therapy and a vaccine against prostatic acid phosphatase, a substance found in most prostate cancer.

Dr. Chang says the most important thing every man can do is be proactive in early detection. Become familiar with your family health history and any relatives with a history of prostate cancer. Talk to your physician about risk factors and symptoms. Be aware of any urinary symptoms, such as frequency of urination, burning sensation when urinating, difficulty starting the stream, weak stream, getting up many times at night for urination, etc.

Always maintain a good life style today: exercise at least three times a week, pay attention to what you eat, increase vegetables and fruits, cut down fatty food, red meat, avoid obesity, manage your stress, and maintain a high quality of rest. If you are a smoker or drinker, the most important health measure you can do is quit smoking and quit drinking.

For information about SOMC smoking secession classes and resources, call (740) 356-2692. For more information about prostate cancer, call the SOMC Cancer Center at (740) 356-7490 or visit www.somccancer.org.