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Prostate cancer has a 99-percent survival rate when detected early

Jeff Axtell, M.Ed.

It is estimated that one in six men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. Fortunately, with early detection and the many new options for prostate cancer treatment, the five-year survival rate is at 99-percent according to the National Cancer Institute.

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer found in American men, following skin cancer, and accounts for the second-leading cause of cancer deaths. In Arizona, approximately 4,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Coconino County has the third-highest incidence rate of the 15 Arizona counties.

The prostate is gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is about the size of walnut and located just below the bladder. As men age they have a greater risk of developing an enlarged prostate, a condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer. Symptoms of an enlarged prostate include frequent urination, straining to urinate, a weak urine stream and a sensation that the bladder has not completely emptied.

Men between the ages of 50 and 79 years and/or men over the age of 45 who have a family history of prostate cancer are recommended to receive annual prostate exams. Screenings can detect the disease in its early stages, allowing for better treatment options and longer survival rates with early diagnosis. A prostate screening is relatively simple and takes about 15 minutes with a primary care physician or urologist.

The screening involves a physical exam and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test which, when used together, can provide early diagnosis of this common cancer. The physical exam determines if the prostate gland is enlarged or hardened which can sometimes indicate there is a problem. The PSA blood test is a good indicator as to whether the prostate gland is producing higher levels of protein, which can indicate that certain diseases of the prostate may be present, primarily prostate cancer.

The advancements in treatments and technology used to treat prostate cancer have improved a great deal in the past 10 years, with new advancements and treatment options surfacing almost every year. The most common types of treatment for prostate cancer are surgical excision of the prostate gland, Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), low-dose radiation seed implants and hormonal therapy. 

 There is no better time than now to take care of this quick and easy screening and avoid the complications associated with late-stage prostate cancer diagnosis. For more information about prostate cancer or other cancer treatments, contact the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare at 800 854-7744, or visit The Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare, with campuses in Flagstaff and Sedona, is a non-profit cancer system devoted to impacting cancer in our communities through advanced treatment options, early detection and prevention.

Jeff Axtell, M.Ed., is the director of the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare.