SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Richard Taylor is a prostate cancer survivor. As a 74-year-old African American man, his age and ethnicity put him in the high-risk category for this male disease, which manifests 99% of the time after the age of 50.
"Information is key. You've got to know what's going on," Taylor said. "What happened was, one of my PSA tests indicated that my PSA was rising."
P.S.A. stands for prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland which can be measured in the blood. When the prostate is afflicted by cancer, PSA levels go up.
A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Cancer, found as many as 80% of men in their 70s are likely to have a form of prostate cancer. But the seriousness of that diagnosis can vary dramatically.
Doctor Tyler Seibert, with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, specializes in radiation oncology at UC San Diego Health. He says in some cases, treatment is as simple as what he calls, "active surveillance," with regular checkups.
"Prostate cancer is interesting because you can get prostate cancer and there are some that are just low grade and don't seem to do much — you can live and die at a normal age of something else and never have a problem from prostate cancer," said Seibert.
But in others...
"Some men will have an aggressive form of prostate cancer that becomes very much in need of treatment and can cause metastasis. It can be in your bones, it can be painful, and ultimately cause your death," added Seibert.
Treatment may include removal of the prostate or radiation therapy to shrink the tumor, both with potential side effects for urination and sexual function.
Long before getting to that point, Seibert says a healthy diet and exercise will reduce your risk of cancer. And if you are diagnosed...
"You're more prepared to withstand the treatment and have a longer life and good outcome," Seibert said. "Certainly if you have any symptoms, and that would be, men, usually if its urinary symptoms, having trouble urinating, which can be totally benign, but that's a sign that you should, at least, be checked."
And even without symptoms, Siebert says men 45 and older may choose to have periodic PSA tests, especially if they have risk factors related to family history, are of African American descent, or past the age 45.
"I was totally asymptomatic. So, in that respect, had it not been for the PSA test, which I was having done on a yearly basis with my physical, I would have never known," said Taylor.
Taylor had a directed radiation therapy to combat his cancer and has had very successful results.
If you're a man older than 40 with a family history of cancer, talk to your doctor about the potential benefits of getting a PSA test. Seibert says it's an easy blood test, not very expensive, and covered by insurance.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and you can participate by joining the EAT TO BEAT TO IT challenge! The first step is to join the PCF Facebook Group. Don't want to be on Facebook? Sign up here and we will send you information by email during the month. When you are in the group, request your FREE welcome kit!