“Brovember” is here! That is the UVM Cancer Center’s version of “Movember,” that time of year that now comes every November when we raise awareness of men’s health education and men’s cancers by growing facial hair. During our “Brovember” campaign, we want to urge men to take charge of their health!
I’m happy to report that we have much to celebrate as we look at where prostate disease research is today. But, there are some steps I would advise every man take to protect his health.
One major facet of men’s health is prostate health. The prostate is a muscular gland in the male reproductive system. It surrounds a portion of the bladder and urethra. Today, 1 in every 6 men will experience urinary problems caused by benign (“natural”) prostate gland enlargement, also known as benign prostatic hypertrophy or benign prostatic hyperplasia. What happens? The cells in the prostate gland multiply causing the gland to swell. This squeezes the urethra and limits the flow of urine.
Symptoms include a slow urine stream or a start and stop stream as well as urine frequency, urgency to go to the bathroom, and inability to urinate. Medical interventions include pharmaceutical and herbal remedies. In some cases, surgery may be required and there are many minimally invasive treatments available.
Take charge of your health: Talk to your primary care doctor or urologist if you experience any of the symptoms I just mentioned.
The good news: The number of men dying from Prostate Cancer has decreased by 40 percent since 1990! This is incredible news for any man. The bad news: there still are approximately 290,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States. In fact, more than 500 men are diagnosed and approximately 60 men die of prostate cancer in Vermont every year.
Take charge of your health: The United States Preventive Services Task Force has emphasized that doing just a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) blood test is not recommended for the detection of prostate cancer. Instead, a combination of factors assessed together (genetics/family history, Prostate Health Index (a newly released blood test that is a combination of PSA tests and calculations), and some brand new experimental blood tests to identify men at risk and help find significant Prostate Cancer at an early curable stage. Talk to your doctor about screening and detection.
The Future of Prostate Health Testing
Two exciting new blood tests are being developed right here at the University of Vermont and the University of Vermont Cancer Center under the direction of Christopher Franklin, PhD, Nicholas Farina, PhD, and Jane Lian, PhD. The TARS and microRNA biomarker signatures offer new insights into a man’s prostate cancer and whether it is a low risk cancer that may require no immediate treatment or a high risk cancer that would benefit from treatment now. A biomarker is a measurable substance in the blood or other body fluids that, if it is present, indicates also the presence of a condition, disease, or infection.
Scott D. Perrapato, DO, FACOS, is a urologist and urologic oncologist at the UVM Medical Center and an associate professor at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.