Nearly one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
That’s far too many.
So the National Football League Alumni Association and Cancer Treatment Centers of America are combining on a series of "Prostate Pep Talk" public service announcements to raise awareness of prostate cancer risks and encourage men to get screened for the disease. As part of the campaign the NFL Alumni are encourage all players, coaches and staff to also get screened.
Legendary NFL coaches Herm Edwards, Dick Vermeil, and Bill Cowher will be featured in those announcements, which will run throughout September.
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Prostate cancer has high survivor rates, especially when it is caught and treated early.
Dr. Pat F. Fulgham, director of surgical oncology services at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, is very familiar with the fight against prostate cancer. Some of his patients are current or former NFL players, including several who have been active in the NFL Alumni Association. He also has a medical office in Dallas as part of the Urology Clinics of North Texas, which has locations spread across the Metroplex, including Fort Worth.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men in the United States. African-American men are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed. The American Cancer Society estimates that 181,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.
“In general, men are somewhat reluctant to see a physician for an annual physical examination and are particularly reluctant to undergo a digital rectal examination (DRE). Many primary care physicians have begun to omit the DRE altogether,” said Fulgham, who follows the NFL and favors the Dallas Cowboys. “I still feel that there is a strong reason to perform a DRE at least once a year. There are many other health problems that can be detected on routine examination.
“Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are among a few that can cause serious harm if not detected early and treated. It is not only a reluctance to have a prostate exam, but a general reluctance by men to go in for annual testing of any kind that is the biggest deterrent.”
Prostate cancer is a sneaky disease because it has no symptoms until it is far advanced.
“This is one of the challenges of prostate cancer because, in the absence of symptoms, men are that much more reluctant to be evaluated. Although the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended that men not be tested for prostate cancer either by PSA or digital rectal examination, the urologic community continues to advocate for at least an annual PSA and physical examination,” Fulgham said. “The digital rectal examination, though it lacks specificity, is still in my opinion a fundamental part of an annual exam. I am concerned that if men don’t get an annual exam including a PSA and DRE they will be diagnosed with prostate cancer when it is at an advanced stage and not able to be cured.”
Fulgham said there has been many new advancements in the treatment of prostate cancer through diagnostics and surgery.
“Among the new diagnostic tools are blood tests such as the 4Kscore, which calculates a patient’s percent risk of having aggressive prostate cancer prior to prostate biopsy. This may aid patients and their physicians in deciding whether to proceed with a prostate biopsy,” Fulgham said. “MRI of the prostate has become more advanced and available. MRI may identify suspicious areas in the prostate which may aid the patient and their physician in deciding whether to pursue a prostate biopsy. It may also help the urologist guide the needle to suspicious areas on ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy.
“In the realm of surgical treatment, the advent of laparoscopic and robotic removal of the prostate has made the hospital stay shorter and the risk of bleeding lower.”
September is Prostrate Cancer Awareness month, but prostate cancer is a daily threat if not tested. Fulgham’s office at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas consists of five urologists and diagnose approximately 200 new cases of prostate cancer per year.
The Urology Research & Education Foundation, a non-profit foundation, has an annual golf tournament called the Pros and Joes Celebrity Golf tournament in September in recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness month. This year it will be held September 26 at Brookhaven Country Club. The goal of the tournament is to increase an awareness of prostate cancer, educate men on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and raise funds for ongoing education and support of men with prostate cancer. Many local sports celebrities and former NFL players participate in the annual event.
“I would like to stress to men to take control of their health. They need to be proactive by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and have an annual physical exam to check not only for the risk of prostate cancer but for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc., “ Fulgham said.
Here are five healthy tips to protect yourself against prostate cancer, according to Dr. Pat F. Fulgham, director of Surgical Oncology Services, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas:
1. Eat a healthy diet.
2. Get regular physical activity.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
4. Don’t smoke.
5. Consume alcohol in moderation