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To Screen or not to Screen?

“As I approach my mid fifties I realize there are health issues I am expected to monitor.  Procedures such as colonoscopy and annual PSA tumble out of my doctor’s mouth interspersed with Latin terms, words I am unfamiliar with and have rarely if ever encountered.  I have never been sick, so why should I be screened for prostate cancer?”

The subject of prostate cancer and screening can be confusing, even for your doctor.   Recent data published this past month from the UK has shown that for boys born in the year 2015, 1 in 7 will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.  The second leading cause of cancer deaths in males, prostate cancer is also the most common cancer in men. Nearly 240,000 new cases are diagnosed every year with that number expected to increase as the population ages, since prostate cancer is primarily a disease of older men.  Because of the likelihood of men developing prostate cancer, the American Society of Oncology suggests screening should start at age 50 with a PSA blood test and an exam by a physician.  Men with a family history of prostate cancer should be screened beginning at age 40. Recommendations for screening also hinge around the possible longevity of the patient.  For example, if men are expected to live another 10 years or more, prostate cancer screening is recommended.  As the population continues living longer, the incidence of prostate cancer will rise.  More data from the UK reported that the death rate from prostate cancer has dropped almost 20% over the past 20 years.  This reduction is most likely from early detection and improved treatments.  Therefore, finding prostate cancer early by screening can and does save lives.  Doctors have always been told and believed that finding cancer at the earliest stage allows patients to be cured at a higher rate. This belief is still true for prostate cancer.

Dr. Kris Gast is a Board Certified Radiation Oncologist who has been in practice 21 years, the last 13 years at Fort Smith Radiation Oncology.

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You can email Dr. Gast your questions about cancer