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Understanding Prostate Health

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Having regular screenings and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are key factors in reducing one’s risk of prostate cancer.

ProstatehealthSeptember is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer among men in the United States, behind skin cancer, and the second cause of cancer-related death in men, behind lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015, the United States will experience more than 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer and more than 27,500 deaths as a result of the disease.

“Men who end up diagnosed with prostate cancer are typically asymptomatic until the later stages,” warns Touro’s Dr. Richard Vanlangendonck, a board-certified urologist, fellowship-trained in minimally invasive urologic surgery, whose primary focus is on prostate and kidney cancers. “But just because you don’t have symptoms, doesn’t mean you don’t have cancer.”

Approximately one out of every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, so, as a precautionary measure, Dr. Vanlangendonck advises that men have routine screenings and checkups with their primary care physician or urologist.

The American Urological Association recommends that any man over age 40 should discuss prostate cancer screening with his physician to determine when he needs to be screened. Age, ethnicity and family history all have an impact on risk levels. For screenings, Dr. Vanlangendonck suggests a combination of a prostate specific antigen (PSA) screening and digital rectal exam.

“About 10 percent of men will have normal results from a PSA but abnormal rectal-exam results,” Dr. Vanlangendonck says. “Together, these two screening tools can help us to detect prostate cancer early when it can be most effectively treated. We can also utilize additional serum tests in conjunction with these to better stratify men for their individual risk levels, such as low risk, intermediate risk or high risk.”

For those who need more rigorous treatment methods, surgery, radiation or a combination of both may be used. “This multi-modal therapy is being used a lot more to ensure longterm cancer care,” says Dr. Vanlangendonck, who treats about five to seven patients per week using the Da Vinci Surgical System. This minimally invasive procedure involves only about a two-hour operation and allows most patients to go home the next day.

“Typically, patients are back to work and their normal routine after only two weeks,” Dr. Vanlangendonck says. “This procedure also allows us to minimize risk of side effects, which include urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.”

In addition to prostate cancer, Dr. Vanlangendonck also treats symptoms of enlarged prostate. Treatment methods include prescription medications that improve the flow of urination and reduce urgency symptoms, natural remedies and even surgical procedures.

“Treatment of enlarged prostate is a lifestyle choice for many,” he explains. “Someone’s urinary frequency might not be that disruptive, but if it’s affecting your quality of life and daily activities, then treatment should be sought. If left untreated, enlarged prostate symptoms can lead to longterm bladder and kidney damage, or even dialysis.”

Though an enlarged prostate does not affect one’s risk for prostate cancer, an enlarged prostate can cause elevated PSA levels, resulting in some false positives. “But that’s the purpose of a screening test,” Dr. Vanlangendonck says. “They’re designed not to miss anything.”

While having regular screenings is the most proactive thing a man can do for his prostate health, Dr. Vanlangendonck recommends other healthy lifestyle changes to reduce risk levels.

“Obesity puts you at a higher risk for prostate cancer,” he says. “So I always tell my patients that an active lifestyle with a healthy, low-fat diet is important for their overall health.”