Protecting Against Prostate Cancer

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“I knew that prostate cancer was pretty normal and that most men will, if they live long enough, will get prostate cancer.”

Chicago resident Bill Gerstein’s statement reveals what Dr. Scott Eggener of University of Chicago Medicine refers to as the “Holy Grail” for doctors:

“If a man grows old enough, he likely will have some prostate cancer in his prostate,” Dr. Eggener says. “The big thing that we need to figure out is which men have prostate cancer that’s never going to cause them any problems … versus the man that has prostate cancer that if nothing’s done, it’s going to grow and spread and kill him.”

Dr. Eggener recommends a PSA test (short for prostate-specific antigen) for any man whose life expectancy is greater than eight to 10 years. Bill’s primary care physicians had been giving him regular PSA tests over a period of years and when the numbers began to elevate, Bill went in for a biopsy. The results revealed he had at least two malignant tumors on his prostate.

Because Bill was healthy and relatively young, he opted for surgery.

“I didn’t want to live ,you know, with a risk of, you know, of it being aggressive or the chemotherapy not working,” he says. “So it seemed like of the three choices, surgery was the best choice.”

Bill’s surgery was a success. In addition to early detection, Bill credits his healthy lifestyle with his successful recovery.

“I did everything that the doctor told me to do,” he says. “I had a … healthy and happy life before and I have a healthy and happy life now.”

According to Dr. Eggener, here are a few things to know about prostate cancer:

  • It’s typically diagnosed after age 50 and risk increases as men age
  • African American men are at greater risk for developing prostate cancer
  • Surgery and/or radiation and chemotherapy aren’t the only options. Active surveillance (keeping an eye on the cancer) is also an option in some cases
  • It’s typically diagnosed before any warning signs appear. In late stages, symptoms can include difficultly urinating, bone pain and/or weight loss

While prostate cancer isn’t completely preventable, Dr. Eggener says there are lifestyle choices men can make that could lessen their risk.

“We do know that men that eat healthier, maintain a good weight, exercise regularly, have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer or dying of prostate cancer.”

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