Posts from the ‘Prostate health’ Category

Should older men (75 and up) get the PSA test for prostate cancer?

exam table

exam table (Photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author)

Over the life of this blog, I have shared my experience with prostate cancer. I was diagnosed with the disease a few years ago. The cancer was found at an earlier stage, so I elected to have radiation treatment. So far, my PSA levels have been low, and that’s a good thing. HOWEVER, I respect the fact that cancer is a tough and sneaky foe, so I will continue with my PSA tests.

There is a study that came out in the October 16th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that suggests that many doctors order PSA tests for men 75 and older. Current guidelines, according to, advise against PSA tests for elderly men. HealthDay reporter Steven Reinberg has the lastest information.

As I have stated many times in this blog, I am not a doctor or a health care professional. I’m simply a baby boomer trying to inspire other men to see the doctor. I certainly do not have the authority to suggest whether older men need these tests.

I do feel a guy needs to meet with his doctor to discuss prostate cancer screening, and the earlier the better. While many prostate cancers are slow growing, men 75 and older have a perfect right to discuss prostate cancer screening with their physicians.  At the end of the day, a decision needs to satisfy the doctor, the patient and the patient’s family.


Early stage prostate cancer: Do you need surgery?

Throughout this blog, I have kept you up to date on my prostate cancer. I was diagnosed with an early-stage cancer and, after a period of active surveillance, decided to be treated with radiation. So far, so good.  Post-treatment blood tests show my PSA at normal levels. Yet, I need to keep up with regular screenings, to make sure the cancer doesn’t progress.

I understand many men prefer surgery, so they know their cancerous prostate has been removed.  It makes a great deal of sense.  But what is a guy to do? Recent news reports are throwing out many conflicting messages.  Do I wait and monitor my cancer?  Do I opt for surgical removal?  Do I decide on radiation treatment? It’s confusing stuff for any guy.

The following article by Tara Parker-Pope, in the New York Times, explores whether surgery is a good choice for early-stage cancer.

I am not a doctor, but here is my suggestion. Talk with your doctor about prostate cancer. Bring up the subject, even if you’re a younger man. Start taking prostate exams at the appropriate age (after consulting with the doctor). Some men are at higher risk and need to be screened at a younger age.  If you’re eventually diagnosed with the disease, you don’t need to panic. Do research, talk with your family and spend a lot of time with your urologist (and perhaps a radiation oncologist) to determine the best treatment option. A lot will be determined by the clinical grade of the cancer.  It’s a fact guys don’t like to see the doctor. It’s a main theme throughout my blog.

So guys, don’t avoid the doctor during your baby boomer years.

Note: Since posting this piece, I came across the latest from

New options put a permanent end to post-prostatectomy urinary incontinence — guest post by Dr. Kurt McCammon

For many men, stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a common side effect of prostate cancer treatments1a. Unfortunately, amidst the flurry of questions and concerns surrounding the cancer diagnosis, many men don’t even recall hearing this part of the conversation when they discuss treatments with their doctor. Let’s face it, most everyone’s ability to process new information shuts down as soon as they hear the word “cancer,” and understandably so.

Fortunately, prostate cancer is entirely treatable in the vast majority of cases. However, the treatment is not without potential side effects, and stress urinary incontinence is one of the most common1a. For most men, it’s a temporary problem. But for some, the leakage can become a permanent, life-altering issue.

Many men resolve themselves to thinking they must just learn to live with incontinence. After all, the prostate surgery likely saved their life, so how could they complain about leaking urine once in a while?

The fact is that SUI isn’t just a nuisance. It can actually cause other health-related issues and can completely destroy a man’s self-confidence and social life1. For example, the constant worry about odor and leakage can cause a man to withdraw from activities he once loved,including exercise and intimacy with his partner1. Another problem can result with long-term use of absorbent pads, which can cause skin breakdown that can lead to troublesome and painful skin infections2. The problem can negatively impact not only a man’s relationships but also his health—lack of exercise can lead to weight gain and other health problems.

Fortunately, there are permanent solutions to post-prostatectomy SUI that can put an end to these troublesome symptoms and help prostate cancer survivors reclaim the active, vibrant life they once knew.

A male urinary sling can permanently restore continence for most men with mild to moderate

English: Incontinence pad for men.

Image via Wikipedia

stress urinary incontinence (SUI). The sling is made of sterile surgical mesh (the same type that is used to repair hernias), which works like a hammock to lift and support the urethra, restoring their natural position and their ability to maintain continence. The sling is completely concealed within the body and seems to be well-tolerated by most men3. Sling placement takes less than an hour and, in most cases, can even be performed as an out-patient procedure1b.

For men with more severe SUI, an artificial urinary sphincter offers a greater level of control in a permanent solution1c. Also concealed entirely within the body, the artificial sphincter consists of a small cuff placed around the urethra that, when inflated, applies pressure to prevent urine from escaping. The device is discreet and simple to use, restoring continence with very little impact on your normal restroom routine.

The artificial urinary sphincter implantation procedure also takes about an hour and can be performed as an outpatient procedure1d. The system is an effective long-term treatment for incontinence, having been used for almost 40 years to permanently restore continence for thousands of men worldwide 4,1

If you have been dealing with post-op SUI for more than 12 months, it’s time to talk to your doctor about the minimally-invasive treatment options available to you. You may even want to involve your significant other in the conversation, as SUI no doubt has an effect on your close relationships. The truth is that SUI is often quite problematic for wives in traditional households—in many cases, she’s the one buying the absorbent products and doing the laundry. Partners can often provide valuable insight for the doctor into the severity of the problem.

I recommend making an appointment with your urologist,primary care doctor or family physician to talk specifically about your UI problem. Perhaps out of embarrassment, or not wanting to “disappoint” their doctor with a complaint about an unwelcome side effect of a life-saving procedure, many patients fail to mention this problem on follow-up visits. You, as the patient, need to be your own advocate. Physicians who’ve never experienced the problem of SUI often don’t realize just how life altering it can be.

Once you’ve evaluated the options and chosen the one that’s best for your unique situation, you will be amazed with the difference it makes in your everyday life. I’ve seen an extraordinary number of patients for whom these procedures have made a tremendous impact in their quality of life. With the wide availability of treatments, there’s no reason to suffer in silence any longer.

Kurt A. McCammon, M.D., FACS, is a practicing urologist specializing in male incontinence and voiding dysfunction and chairman and program director of the Urology Residency Program at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. Earning his medical degree from the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, followed with residency training in urology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and a fellowship in adult and pediatric genitourinary reconstructive surgery.


This article was written with assistance from American Medical Systems to provide general information about male urinary incontinence and treatment options. For more information about male urinaryincontinence and treatment options available through AMS please visit

1a.   Claim 349

1b.   Claim 367

1c.   Claim 361

1d.   Claim 369

1e.   Claim 370

  1. Hunskaar S., Sandvik H. One hundered and fifty men with urinary incontinence. Scand J Prim Health Care 1993; 11: 193-196
  2. Rackley R., MD. et al. Nonsurgical Treatment of Urinary Incontinence.; downloaded May 31, 2011.
  3. Klingler H.C., Marberger M. Incontinence after radical prostatectomy: surgical treatment options. Current Opinion in Urology 2006; 16: 60-64
  4. Venn S.N., Greenwell T.J., Mundy A.R. The Long-Term Outcome of Artificial Urinary Sphincters. Jol. of Urol. 2000; 164: 702-707.

1005050r1 (01/12)

Four popular prostate cancer myths — busted. Guest post by Bernice Spradlin

Telling fact from fiction is your first defense when it comes to prostate cancer.

Sure, you are growing your Mo (or mustache in support of November’s Prostate Cancer Awareness month) but do you know that prostate cancer is not just a disease that affects old dudes? No, most men afflicted are in their 50s. Did you also know that prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer among men in the U.S.?

You might believe that you know enough about prostate cancer in order to recognize the signs and symptoms if they affected you or someone you love. However, doctors and cancer experts worry about the popular prostate cancer myths might negatively impact your awareness or decisions about taking pro-active decisions about your health. For instance:

Myth #1. Prostate cancer treatment causes impotence

Although it is a fact that 50% of all men who undergo prostate cancer treatment will experience problems with erectile dysfunction, it can be only temporary. A talk with your doctor will inform you on the risks and shed light on popular erectile dysfunction medications, like Cialis, Viagra and Levitra. These drugs don’t come cheap so purchasing Canadian drugs online at heavily discounted rates may be an option. Men that undergo surgery or radiation have experienced potency issues due to the damage to nerves and blood vessels (the same nerves and blood vessels that control erection), as well as lower sex drive due to hormone therapy. However the side effects of surgery, radiation and hormone therapy, typically subside within a year following treatment. Erectile-stimulating drugs can also be prescribed by your doctor until normal erectile function returns.

The risk: If a man believes he will have to live impotent as a result of prostate cancer, he may refuse treatment altogether and increase his risk of death when in actuality only 50% of men suffer erectile issues, temporarily in the 6 to 12 months following prostate cancer treatment.

Myth #2. Prostate cancer is a disease that affects elderly men only

Most people think that only senior men (65 years or older) are at risk for prostate cancer. That’s why when men in their 40s and 50s are diagnosed people think it’s rare or not common.

The risk: If a man believes that you have to be a senior to be at risk of prostate cancer, he may ignore the symptoms of the disease or think that he doesn’t have to worry and avoid or delay treatment if he’s diagnosed.

Myth #3. The symptoms of prostate cancer are obvious

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Prostate cancer in the early stages typically shows zero symptoms. The symptoms, most commonly urinary tract and back issues, become evident only when you are in the advanced stages of the disease and by then the cancer is treatable to prolong life, but no longer curable.

The risk: If you are only looking for the obvious symptoms, you may avoid annual prostate screens. That’s why awareness events like Movember exist, to remind men (aged 40 and up) to get their prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood levels checked annually.

Myth #4. People don’t die of prostate cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 240,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011. Still, many men believe that no one man ever dies of prostate cancer.

The risk: The good news is that in most cases, if a doctor catches prostate cancer early on, it’s not only treatable, but curable. However, it’s still the second leading cancer killer for American men. Risk of death occurs if your doctor catches prostate cancer early on and you avoid treatment in belief that the disease can’t kill you.

Bernice Spradlin is an avid hiker and runner. She works at a gym in
Brooklyn, New York, where she gets great inspiration for her freelance
health-related articles and blogs. In her off time, you can often find
Bernice jogging the East River path along the waterfront and enjoying
the cool breeze. Bernice is currently looking for freelance writing
work, and can be contacted at

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, please click the “guest post” tab at the top of this blog’s main page. You’ll find submission guidelines. Facts, opinions, research and advice from our guest writers cannot substitute for a visit to your family physician.




Sex after prostate cancer? An Arizona-based writer tackles the touchy subject in a new book — article by Scott Keith

Let’s face it. Prostate Cancer is a “Guy Thing.” It’s an extremely common cancer as men get older. Luckily, in recent years, with effective prostate cancer screening, more men have been diagnosed while the cancer is small enough to be treated or cured. But guys will be guys. There are sexual side effects associated with prostate cancer treatment, whether the treatment is surgery or radiation. And many guys simply don’t want to talk about it.

The wife of a prostate cancer survivor, Cindie Hubiak, is out to help married couples navigate through the ups, downs and sexual frustrations associated with the disease. Hubiak, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based author and co-founder of Solutions for Intimacy, has written A Woman’s Guide to Thriving after Prostate Cancer.

Nearly one in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year in the United States. Treatment can lead to unpleasant side effects, such as erectile difficulty. Hubiak, noticing there were very few prostate cancer resources for women, decided to spark a dialogue, and help married couples face the disease.

Hubiak, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says it was time to write this book. “Steve (her husband, diagnosed in 2007) and I had struggled so much with how prostate cancer had impacted our relationship that it was an important topic for me to write about, for my own healing.”

Hubiak recalls meeting a woman at a class called “Men and Marriage.” She says the woman and her husband had divorced after 16 years because of his prostate cancer. According to Hubiak, “They could not get their relationship back together. I told Steve this just isn’t right. Relationships should not break up because of prostate cancer. Women should not have struggles with their sexuality. What can we do to help?

“For me as a woman, it was all about Steve’s health. Let’s get him healthy, cancer free and treat it. Once that happened, though, I realized I had a whole lot of healing to do myself. I needed to do a lot of grieving, I needed to look at sex in a whole new way. I had to learn some new skills to support Steve…Men don’t tend to want to grieve and they may feel that’s not masculine,” says Hubiak.

According to Hubiak, “Steve retreated and withdrew from me. I now realize that was his way of surviving. He needed to take care of himself so that he could then be around to take care of me later. I didn’t understand that. It was extremely isolating and frightening for me.” Hubiak says this is a similar occurrence among men, according to women she has talked with.

Steve, also interviewed by Men and Health, says, “I’ve always been a rather private person. This was not something that I felt I wanted to share with a lot of people.” He says his relationship with Cindie was affected because Cindie had difficulty getting the support she needed from her friends.

Cindie and Steve decided to create a business called  Solutions for Intimacy to help men and women who face prostate cancer

In A Woman’s Guide to Thriving after Prostate Cancer, readers will learn how to honor and grieve losses, effectively communicate desires, build deeper physical, emotional and spiritual connections, and improve intimacy through tantric principles.

Hubiak says, “Sex is different after prostate cancer. I believe it can be much better than it was before. Steve and I have a much improved sex life…Women can really learn to take the lead after prostate cancer.”

Visit Cindie and Steve at Their book is available at and Barnes and

Mark your calendar: September is prostate cancer awareness month

Prostate cancer is a topic I like to bring up regularly on this blog. Two reasons: I want men to get screened for prostate cancer. And I like to share my first-hand knowledge of the disease. After being diagnosed with cancer of the prostate (at a relatively younger age — mid-50s), I chose radiation therapy. My PSA level went from a high of 8-something to a much lower 1.5. My radiation oncologist was satisfied with the PSA result and told me there’s a very high probability the radiation did the trick.

Just the same, I have a very healthy respect for cancer and know it can always return and bite you hard. That’s why I will need to continue PSA blood tests for the rest of my life. If my PSA goes up in the future, I’ll have to consider other treatment options.

The following is a great article by Jeff Axtell in the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff. Axtell reviews some prostate cancer facts and figures. This is a great read for any guy, baby boomer or otherwise. After all, one in six men will get prostate cancer.

Depending on where you live, there may be free prostate screenings during prostate cancer awareness month, so check with your local health authority.

Prostate cancer: Treatment options can be tailored to individuals

Not too many years ago, more men were being diagnosed with advanced, perhaps incurable, prostate cancer. This was before the PSA blood test. Perhaps the only clue of a problem was some prostate symptoms. In recent  years, with effective prostate cancer screening, more men are being diagnosed with treatable, early-stage disease.

There’s a great article by Harry Jackson Jr. in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that quotes doctors in the field. For instance, Dr. Arnold Bullock, a urologist with the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, says more treatments are tailored to the individual. This compares with an era when treatment was more of a “one size fits all.”

Doctors, according to the article, say that after surgery, man no longer experience weeks of uncomfortable side effects; 80 to 90 percent of men can expect to be back to normal after prostate cancer.

Overall, says the article, it’s getting easier to cure the disease or manage it long-term.

If you’re a man, you need to discuss prostate health, including cancer, with your physician.  Urologists can suggest a treatment plan, based on the aggressiveness of the tumor. And, in many cases, you’ll have plenty of time to discuss treatment options with your doctor and family.

Cancer screening can help spot an early stage prostate cancer, before it has spread and becomes incurable. A heart-to-heart talk with your doc is vital.