Simple Blood Test Is All It Takes During Prostate Cancer Awareness Month
One blood test is all it takes to evaluate the health of a man’s prostate, information that could prove life-saving if cancerous cells are growing there.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and Dr. Ryan Dorin, a urologist with Hartford HealthCare’s Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute, said the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test is a critical part of men’s annual physical check-ups after the age of 50, except in men with a family history of the disease. They, he said, should start testing earlier after discussing their case with a urologist.
The PSA detects the earliest signs of prostate cancer cells, ideally at a time when treatment can be most effective.
“Early detection of prostate cancer greatly increases the chance of cure, and allows a man with prostate cancer to have many options for successful treatment,” Dr. Dorin said. “Without screening tests, most prostate cancer will not be detected until it is already advanced and incurable.”
Between the ages of 50 and 70, men at average risk for prostate cancer should have a PSA screening at least every two years, he noted.
“It is not recommended to go more than two years between screening tests,” he said.
Men with a first-degree relative who had prostate cancer, however, must be more cautious. They have a one in three chance of being diagnosed during their lifetime, compared to a one in six chance for men without such a family history.
“Men with a first-degree relative — a brother or father — with prostate cancer should begin screening 10 years before the age at which their relative was diagnosed,” Dr. Dorin explained.
If the PSA levels are elevated, men are referred to a urologist for consultation and to determine next steps. Tallwood last year launched a Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Virtual Visit Clinic to make this step easier and more convenient for patients and their families. Through this program, men have two options – they can go for an in-person visit with a participating urologist, and then “meet” with other specialists virtually from the urologist’s office; or they can meet all three of the participating providers virtually from the comfort of their own home.
In addition to urologists/urologic surgeons like Dr. Dorin, the program draws together medical oncologists, who can explain treatments, precision medicine and genetics; and radiation oncologists, who address state-of-the-art radiation therapies. Tallwood maintains virtual teams across the state to bring the care close to home for patients.
“The reaction of patients to the Multidisciplinary Clinic has been overwhelmingly positive. We have conducted more than 60 of these visits with universally high patient satisfaction scores,” Dr. Dorin said. “These visits allow patients to receive multiple expert opinions and hear about the full range of treatment options for their prostate cancer in one comprehensive visit, instead of driving around to multiple appointments.”
For more information on the Multidisciplinary Prostate Cancer Virtual Visit Clinic, go to www.hartfordhealthcare.org/ProstateCancerVirtualVisits.