Prostate cancer screenings: when and why you should get them


Decatur's Cancer Care Center held free prostate cancer screenings Thursday and September marks prostate cancer awareness month.

Experts said prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. About 22,000 men die from it each year. By the time a man is showing signs or symptoms of prostate cancer, it's usually very advanced, so catching the cancer early is key. Initial screenings should start at age 40.

When it comes to prostate cancer screenings, Bill Roberts' story may sound like others'.

"I suppose basically my wife pushed me to come out here but I know deep down it's a good idea," he said with a smile.

Especially for men who are at higher risks of getting prostate cancer like men who have a family history, are African American or both.

"We want to screen the high risk population for sure," said Dr. Thomas Tarter Urologic Oncologist at Cancer Care Specialists of Central Illinois.

For some it has saved their life. Bob Jelkes and Rick King are survivors.

"I'm thankful everyday that I'm alive and it's a good feeling," Jelkes said.

"If you catch it early you can take it out," King said. "I didn't have to go through any radiation or chemo."

Roberts was taking precaution.

"It might save you from having cancer, I think it would be well worth it," he said.

The process included taking a survey, followed by a blood test to check PSA levels, prostate-specific antigens.

"We can measure those small quantities in the blood stream in order to evaluate a man's risk of having prostate cancer," Dr. Tarter said.

The higher the level, the greater the risk of prostate cancer. After a blood test, there's a prostate exam.

"What we're trying to evaluate for is anything that is hard in the prostate gland which could be an area of cancer," Dr. Tarter explained.

Roberts will receive his results in the mail.

"It was very easy, pain free," he described.

And well worth it.

Every man who went to Thursday's screening will receive a letter explaining their risk of having cancer if they were to have a biopsy, but not every man needs a biopsy. It depends on how great the risk is. And not all prostate cancers need to be treated. Some men can monitor their cancer and get it treated if it starts progressing.

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