For most men, prostate cancer isn’t a concern until after the age of 55. And while the majority of prostate cancer diagnoses occur amid that age group, prostate cancer does get diagnosed in men much younger than that.
Current governmental guidelines may give a false sense of security in younger men who are quick to believe prostate cancer is an “old man’s disease”. The truth is, prostate cancer can strike at any age, it does not discriminate, and early detection is our best defense against this silent killer. Early detection happens through screening and “one simple blood test”, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test.
One Simple Blood Test: PSA Screening for Men
“One simple blood test” is the campaign the Peter Latos Prostate Cancer Foundation (PLPCF) launched in memory of Peter Latos, who battled stage IV prostate cancer valiantly after his diagnosis at the age of 42. Screening and diagnosis had been delayed in his case, as with many others, because he was thought to be too young for prostate cancer. Before passing away, Peter’s wish was to create a foundation that would help men detect prostate cancer early, and save lives through doing so. He wanted people to learn from his story and experiences. Other than his fighting spirit, anyone who came across Peter’s path in the years before his untimely death remembered him urging to, “Check your PSA…it’s only ONE SIMPLE BLOOD TEST.”
Younger Men with Prostate Cancer on the Rise
In the last 20 years, we've seen a six-fold increase in younger men with aggressive prostate cancer. In 2014, a significant study from the University of Michigan showed the correlation between younger men developing aggressive prostate cancer, especially when those men had a family history of prostate cancer – one of the risk factors of the disease. Researchers found that when prostate cancer strikes at a younger age, it's likely because the tumor is growing quickly. It seems the younger the man, the more severe the prostate cancer and the higher mortality rate. Between the ages of 35 and 44, men are nearly one and a half times more likely to die from the cancer than men between the ages of 64 and 75. These statistics really hit home when looking at a story like Peter’s.
Fast-Growing Tumors in Younger Men
These fast-growing tumors in young men can be missed due to current U.S. Preventive Task Force screening guidelines discouraging men below the age of 55 from getting a baseline PSA blood test. This can be extremely problematic, as prostate cancer often has no symptoms. Until we get improved diagnostic testing, younger men need to be encouraged to understand their risk factors when it comes to prostate cancer, and get screened. The importance of being your own healthcare advocate, regardless of general guidelines, cannot be stressed enough. Knowledge really is power in the fight against prostate cancer.
By spreading the word, we are doing our part in reducing the number of men who need to lose their lives to prostate cancer. Along with the PLPCF, our mission is to save lives through early detection and to provide prostate cancer screenings and PSA blood tests for those in need. We aim to educate men to understand their risk and talk to their physicians about how they can be proactive about their care. The goal of screening for prostate cancer is to find it early, in the hope that it can be treated more effectively.
Importance of Screening for Prostate Cancer
The most important lesson that we can take from this story, is that there is nothing more important than prostate cancer screening. When found early and contained within the prostate, there is a cure rate of almost 100% for prostate cancer. Taking screening seriously is taking your life seriously. Know the facts, know your risk, and don’t think that you are immune to a diagnosis just because you don’t fall under the USPTF recommended screening guidelines yet. In the words of Peter Latos, “it’s only one simple blood test” so get out there and know your number.
If you are one of the many men who needs a PSA test, join Dr. David Samadi and his staff for free PSA screenings, Saturday May 9, 2015 from 9—11am. The Peter Latos Prostate Cancer Foundation will sponsor the first 200 men who register. Sign up by calling 212.365.5000.