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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Prostate Cancer Awareness

Doctor holding blue prostate cancer awareness ribbon

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Charleston VAMC Chief of Urology encourages Veterans to get tested for prostate cancer during their annual physical exams.

By James W. Huckfeldt, Public Affairs Specialist, TCF Intern
Monday, September 26, 2016
September is a time for summer heat to break and leaves to start changing color--it is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

"Approximately 250 to 300 Veterans are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center," Charleston VAMC's Chief Urologist Dr. Stephen J. Savage said. "Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for men, but it's also one of the most treatable."

The Castle Connelly Top Doc notes that when men are regularly screened for prostate cancer, then prostate cancer does not manifest symptoms. It is commonly held belief that men should seek out evaluation for risk of prostate cancer when they have trouble with urination or sexual activity, but that is rarely the case.  In those situations, men may still benefit from a urologic evaluation. However, prostate cancer is easily detectable and Savage urges men to receive a prostate exam during their  annual physical and to have a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) blood test drawn at the same time. 

Savage recommends that African Americans and Veterans with a family history of prostate cancer start receiving exams at age 40. According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate cancer occurs more often in African American men than Caucasians, and they are more likely to die from the disease. Other Veterans with differing demographics can start receiving examinations at age 50--but it's never too early for Veterans to start getting checked. Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are also at an increased risk for prostate cancer and are urged to get screened if they have not already done so.

"Early detection is very helpful," Savage said. "The sooner we find and characterize prostate cancer, the sooner we can determine an appropriate treatment regimen to increase the Veteran's life expectancy.  At times, this may also include simply monitoring the cancer"

Savage doesn't want Veterans to be overly concerned about prostate cancer because of the high treatment success if they receive annual screenings. He also suggests that Veterans not read too deeply into any physical exam and PSA results via MyhealtheVet prior to a follow-up or consult with their provider.

"PSA levels mean different things for different people," Savage explains. "The PSA is not a perfect test and requires interpretation by a urology practitioner so the Veteran can be counseled with accurate results."

If you are age 40 or older, have the conversation with your primary care provider about having your prostate examined during your annual physical. 


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