Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services of weapons, vehicles and equipment are part of everyday military life. Why not a PMCS of the body as well' If one simple test can save a life, why not do it'

Prostate cancer was the most highly diagnosed non-skin cancer at Madigan Healthcare System last year. The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland that makes up part of a man's reproductive system. Since September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, there isn't a better time to not only discuss something most men are not knowledgeable about, but also inform men about the recent changes in prostate screening.

"Early detection is the key to effective treatment and improved survival rates," said Urologic Oncologist Maj. (Dr.) Timothy Brand. The Director of Urology Residency, Brand encourages men to talk to their doctor about prostate cancer screening.

Recently, the American Urology Association changed its guidelines about testing.

Previous guidelines were for men to be screened during their normal physical exams at age 50. Now, the AUA advises talking to your doctor about getting a screening to establish a Prostate-Specific Antigen, or PSA baseline, at age 40.

Screenings are the Digital Rectal Exam and blood test, and can be part of a routine regular physical. The DRE is part of the Ranger and Special Forces physical. Getting a prostate screening is something civilian men are embarrassed about; whole episodes of sitcoms are dedicated to the subject. Brand thinks that it is a lack of knowledge that prevents military men from getting regular screenings.

One of the most important reasons for early screening is to prevent over diagnosis, a concern among urologists. Prostate cancer is very rare among 40-year-old men. By establishing a healthy baseline, urologists can better analyze an elevated PSA result. Since treatments can impact quality of life, doctors do not want to rush into unnecessary treatment.

According to the AUA, establishing a healthy baseline PSA value early will give a number to compare future PSA tests for those men diagnosed with life-threatening prostate cancer when there are more treatments options.

"Treatments must become more aggressive when there is more cancer present," Brand said. "Prostate cancer is usually easy to control when it's found early."

Aggressive treatments include hormonal therapy, radiation and surgery. Treatments, while life saving, can negatively impact quality of life. It is better to be screened and monitored early than to suffer impotence and incontinence as a side effect of an aggressive treatment regimen.

Talk to your primary care provider about screening options. Early screening may just save your life. For more information, call Madigan's Radiation Oncology Services at 253-968-2090.

Page last updated Mon September 20th, 2010 at 12:13