It's the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, prostate cancer. An estimated 28,000 men will die from the disease this year and more than 241,000 will be newly diagnosed.
September is prostate cancer awareness month and Dr. Michael Peterson at the Avera Sacred Heart Cancer Center wants to make sure prostate cancer cases start going down. Dr. Peterson says when men turn 50, it's time to get screened.
"It's really important that we don't lose momentum and continue to do the good job of picking up prostate cancer like we have been doing." Said Dr. Peterson.
To check for prostate cancer there's the notorious rectal exam but there's also a simple blood test. This blood draw monitors the level of the Prostate-Specific Antigen or PSA, the higher the level, the higher the chance of prostate cancer. Early detection is critical but some critics have stirred controversy.
"It is a cancer that can kill you but it is a cancer that studies have shown we can cure and I just want to make sure with all the controversy about prostate screening, that there aren't people out there who miss out on an opportunity for a cure." Said Dr. Peterson.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released an opinion in 2011 that PSA screenings do not give men 50 and older a better chance at survival and could actually cause other problems like incontinence and impotence.
Dr. Peterson says it's your body and you should discuss with your doctor the best route to take. But for now Dr. Peterson says the PSA is the best way to address prostate cancer.
"We all wish it were like on Star Trek where you could wave like this and boom! the diagnosis was made but we're not there yet. In the scheme of things having a rectal exam is not that big of deal and it could save your life." Said Dr. Peterson.
Bob Cappel says it did, twice.
Bob was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his prostate removed in 1995. Even without a prostate he continued to get his PSA tested regularly. With the results of a recent test, Bob's doctor discovered cancerous tissue has spread to his hip and possibly his bladder.
"But because I kept up with the prostate exams every six months or PSA's we were ready to deal with it once it was confirmed it was back and re-occurring." Said Cappel.
There are almost no symptoms for prostate cancer but the biggest risk factor is age. That's why it's recommended men get tested at age 50. African American men are also at a higher risk than other races. But if you have a family history, doctors recommend you get checked starting in your forties.
"There's way too much chance if a man waits for symptoms to occur as a result of prostate cancer that at that point the cancer could be outside the prostate." Said Dr. Peterson
Even Dr. Peterson has his annual checkup. Given Bob's history he is encouraging his 40-year old son to start getting tested. While it's definitely an uncomfortable topic for many men, Bob says it's a no-brainer and could save your life.
"Any man who's 50 and above and has not had one needs to put it on their bucket list of things they've got to do." Said Cappel.
Once again, the earlier prostate cancer is detected the more curable it is. So guys, don't drag your feet and get yourself checked out.
For more information about prostate screenings just call 877-AT-AVERA.