2006-06-16 / Community

Smith: Prostate Cancer Screenings Save Lives

In recognition of Men's Health Week, which culminates on Father's Day, State Senator Malcolm Smith urges all men age 50 and older to take better care of themselves by getting the facts on prostate cancer screenings.

"Only about half of the men at risk for prostate cancer get screened for the disease," Senator Smith explained. "There are no noticeable symptoms in the early stages of prostate cancer, which is why testing is so critical."

According to the American Cancer Society, one in every six men will get prostate cancer sometime in his lifetime. African-American men are especially at risk for the disease, with the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world: one in four men. Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of male cancer-related death in the United States, but more than 99% of patients would survive if the disease is detected and treated early.

"The trick is catching it early," the Queens lawmaker said. "A screening test for prostate cancer takes only ten minutes, and New York State law requires health insurance policies to cover diagnostic screening. Actually, the hardest part may be convincing Dad to make an appointment."

Screening for prostate cancer typically involves two steps: a blood test, known as PSA, and a physical examination of the prostate, called a digital rectal exam, or DRE. Screening can't show if you have the disease, only whether further tests are needed. While the American Cancer Society does not recommend routine testing for prostate cancer, they suggest men speak with their doctors about the risks and benefits of screening.

"Each man needs to have the best information possible to make the decision that is right for him," Senator Smith said. "Before screening tests made early detection available, only one in four cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed in the early stages of disease. Now, with screening, about nine out of ten cases are diagnosed early, giving more men a fighting chance. So on Father's Day, in addition to giving hugs, cards, and gifts, let's give thanks to the heroes we call Dad by urging them to get checked for prostate cancer."

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; or visit their website at www.cancer.org.

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