prostate cancer

Prostate Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know

Just because women don’t have prostate glands doesn’t mean they shouldn’t know the facts about prostate cancer. In fact, as the gatekeepers of health for many families, women play an important role in encouraging the men in their lives to get regular prostate screenings.

“Women typically seek out healthcare more often,” says Dr. Jessica Kreshover, Urologist at the Arthur Smith Institute for Urology and Assistant Professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “Because of this, they are in a unique position to communicate the benefits of prostate cancer screening with their male family members and friends.”

The Benefits of Early Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

Many women are shocked to learn that prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men, and that one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime (source: American Cancer Society). Although these statistics are alarming, the news isn’t all bad. The reality is that prostate tumors are often highly treatable when they’re diagnosed at an early stage.

Yet, early stage prostate cancer typically has few or no symptoms. It is most often first detected by a digital rectal exam (DRE) followed by a blood test to measure a protein made by prostate cells, called prostate specific antigen (PSA). A doctor usually can feel whether there is any swelling or nodules on the prostate. An elevated level of PSA also is an indicator that cancer may be present.

Current Prostate Screening Guidelines

The American Urological Association recommends that men obtain a baseline PSA screening and a DRE at age 55 or age 40 if there are risk factors (African Americans and family history), with follow-up screens at intervals determined by the patient and his physician. Decisions made on screening intervals are based on multiple factors including:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history
  • PSA test results

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recently announced a new recommendation that states that men ages 55 to 69 should “make an individualized decision about prostate cancer screening with their clinician.” This was a change to a blanket recommendation in 2012 for no routine screening at any age. Because of varying recommendations, it’s important for all men to discuss their specific prostate cancer screening needs with their physician during their annual checkup.

In some cases, genetic testing, to identify mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 which increase the risk of prostate cancer, as well as the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, may be recommended as a risk assessment.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

If prostate cancer is diagnosed, treatment depends on the patient’s age, aggressiveness of the tumor and personal preference. Because prostate cancer is often slow-growing, repeat screenings and a follow-up biopsy is often the recommended option. If the cancer is more aggressive, treatment options may include surgical removal of the prostate, radiation therapy or brachytherapy, which involves placing small radioactive seeds in the prostate.

Coping with the Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Treatment

Some of the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction (ED), can impact the quality of a man’s life. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for these side effects. Incontinence treatment options include surgical placement of a mesh sling over the urethra to hold urine back or an artificial urinary sphincter that closes down on the urethra to hold urine back. Oral medications, such as Cialis and Viagra, can help the majority of men who experience ED following treatment. Other ED treatment options include penile implants and vacuum pumps.

“There can be quality of life adjustments for some men following prostate cancer treatment,” says Dr. Kreshover. “However, women can help tremendously by providing compassionate moral support.”

Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about cancer detection and prevention. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.

colorectal cancer

Take Action to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer doesn’t get the same amount of attention as some high-profile cancers, but it should. Many women are surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Found most often in individuals who are 50 and older, this common form of cancer is highly preventable. In fact, six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screening.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Screening for colorectal cancer can help find cancer at an early stage and decrease your chance of dying from it. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75 years. Women who are at a higher risk of developing this form of cancer should be screened at a younger age and may need more frequent screening.

The colonoscopy procedure is painless with a low risk of complications. Written instructions, provided by your doctor, prescribe a solution required to cleanse the colon. Fortunately, colonoscopy prep has improved over the years and the days of consuming large amounts of an unpleasant tasting laxative prior to the procedure are over. During the colonoscopy, your physician looks at the interior walls of the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope. If polyps are discovered, samples of tissue may be collected for closer examination and polyps can be removed.

“Simply put, screening colonoscopy saves lives,” says Dr. David Rivadeneira, Director of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Huntington Hospital. “Colorectal cancer is extremely prevalent, yet screening is fast and very safe with a very low complication rate.”

Colorectal Screening Tests

While colonoscopy remains the gold standard screening test for colorectal cancer, there are new tests now being introduced that use advanced DNA technology to find elevated levels of altered DNA which could be associated with cancer or pre-cancer. These tests include Cologuard, which is a single stool sample kit that patients can use at home.

Other colorectal cancer screening tests that are currently available include:

  • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test – Checks for hidden blood in stool samples.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – Looks at the interior walls of the rectum and part of the colon.

It’s important to discuss with your doctor which test is best for your specific needs.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Along with getting regular screenings for colorectal cancer, there are also lifestyle decisions you can make to lower your risk.

  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular exercise
  • Drink alcohol only moderately, if not at all
  • Limit red meat, especially processed meat
  • Get the daily recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Take a multivitamin with folate

Want to learn more about colorectal cancer prevention? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist. For questions about colorectal cancer and screenings, please contact Dr. David Rivadeneira at 631-470-1450.