Latest Allegheny Health Network News
Sep 13, 2021
Courtesy of Allegheny Health Network A recent study from the National Institute of Scientific Research in Quebec City, Canada , found that widowers are more likely than married men or men in relationships to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at an advanced stage, when it is less treatable. A likely reason is that wives or partners are likely to urge men to seek treatment when they develop worrisome symptoms. That’s important as some prostate cancer symptoms, such as a frequent need to urinate, are common in men as they get older and may be caused by benign conditions. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a good time to remind men of some of the early warning signs of prostate cancer – the second most common cancer in men, after skin cancer. In addition to problems with urination, such as a slow or weak stream of urine, they include blood in urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, pain in the hips, back or chest, weakness or numbness in the legs and feet, and loss of bladder or bowel control. Screening tests can detect prostate cancer before symptoms appear, but they carry risks as well as benefits. We suggest you discuss with your primary care physician whether these tests are the right option for you. Men at average risk should begin that discussion by age 50. This is particularly important for African-American men, as unfortunately they are at higher risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, of being diagnosed at a younger age, and of dying from the disease. Fortunately, prostate cancer has a five-year survival rate of 100 percent when caught early. Patients have many treatment options. Because prostate cancer is often very slow-growing, one common option is active surveillance or watchful waiting. We monitor the patient’s cancer on a regular basis, and only begin treatment if it begins to grow rapidly. For men who need treatment there usually are many options including surgery, radiation therapy, and others. Radiation therapy is a common option, both in early stages and more advanced stages. It may be combined with hormonal therapy, and can be delivered in the form of external beam treatment either alone or combined with prostate seed implant (brachytherapy), or prostate seed implant alone. At Allegheny Health Network, we are one of just a few centers nationwide offering patients with prostate cancer treatment with the Elekta Unity MR-linac, which is a linear accelerator (a medical device that produces precise external beam radiation to treat cancer) combined with advanced MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) technology, so that doctors can view the tumor in real time, and adapt the radiation dose during the treatment. The MR-linac lets us reshape the radiation dose as the tumor changes shape, size and position, avoiding surrounding healthy tissue and potentially resulting in better outcomes and fewer side effects. The number of options for screening and treatment can be overwhelming. Stay informed, and discuss your options with your physicians and your loved ones. There is no “best” option – only the option that is best for you. Russell Fuhrer, MD, Director of Prostate and Genitourinary Cancers; Director, Clinical Operations, Quality and Safety, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cancer Institute, Division of Radiation Oncology Tom Colonias, MD, AHN Cancer Institute Director of Thoracic Malignancies, Division of Radiation Oncology Support Local Journalism and help us continue covering the stories that matter to you and your community.