The American Cancer Society recommends a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test yearly, starting at age 50 for men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy. Men at high risk, such as African Americans and men who have one or more first-degree relatives—a father or a brother—diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than 65) should begin testing at 45. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and limitations of testing and subsequent treatment so you can make an informed decision about testing.
When former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago, his doctors gave him a good prognosis. Back in uniform just one month later, he symbolized strength for his team—and for the more than 186,000 other men who will have been diagnosed with the disease by year’s end . Fortunately, research is uncovering new ways to combat prostate cancer.Treatment advances
Traditional treatments for prostate cancer include surgery to remove the prostate (called a radical prostatectomy), external beam radiation to kill cancer cells and hormonal treatments. Brachytherapy, a relatively newer method, appears to be as effective as surgery—with fewer side effects.
In brachytherapy, best reserved for early-stage cancer confined to the prostate, small radioactive seeds are implanted directly into the gland. Today’s sophisticated imaging techniques map the exact size and location of the prostate, ensuring the most effective placement of the radioactive material. About the size of grains of rice, the seeds remain radioactive for weeks or months after implantation. Usually an outpatient procedure, brachytherapy is less likely to cause incontinence or erectile dysfunction, common side effects of surgery and radiation.Dietary prevention
- A study of 48,000 men found that those who ate 10 servings a week of cooked tomato products had the lowest risk of prostate cancer, thanks to lycopene, a cancer-fighting phytochemical found in tomatoes. (Cooking tomatoes breaks down lycopene, allowing it to be more easily absorbed by the body.)
- A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), found that the more saturated fat a man eats, the greater his risk for prostate cancer. Saturated fat is found in animal products and in tropical, palm and coconut oils.
Researchers have located a gene that predisposes men to prostate cancer. The gene, HPC-1, is the first proof that there is a genetic component to the disease. This discovery may help identify high-risk patients and lead to new treatments.