Men Should Consider Having These Three Cancer Screenings

Cancer Screenings Are the Best Way to Prevent Cancer, and in Some Cases, Catch Cancer Early

Author: Jasmine Brown

Father and Son Looking at Photos

 


“Screening is available for all of these cancers, such that the diagnosis can be made early on and the cure rate increases.”

 

Prostate, lung and colorectal cancers are the most common diagnosed among men, and one of the best weapons in fighting cancer is prevention through screening – services that men can access at a McLaren Flint location.

“Diagnosis can be made early on and the possibility of cure is higher,” states Madan Arora, MD, hematology and medical oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. “The good news is there are a variety of newer treatments that have become available for these cancers and cancer mortality rate is declining. It’s going down because of screening, early diagnosis, and better treatment options.”

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer among men. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that around 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their life. Though prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among men, there are over 3 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States.

Prostate Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms normally do not occur in the early stages of prostate cancer, which is why screening is very important. The most common prostate cancer symptom is issues with urination. Having trouble with urinating does not always mean prostate cancer. If you begin experiencing urination issues, make an appointment with your primary care provider.

Prostate Cancer Screening

Men who are nearing 50 years of age or older should speak with their primary care provider to understand if they should receive a digital rectal exam (DRE) or prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test routinely. Each man’s prostate health varies - some men may have to receive screenings at an earlier age, especially if they are considered high risk. This could be true if they:

  • Have a family history of prostate cancer, including a father, son or brother who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer before the age of 65. A man’s risk increases when he has more than one close family member who has been diagnosed.
  • Are African American. African American men have a higher death rate due to prostate cancer than American men with European descent.

Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

Whether prostate cancer is detected early, in an advanced stage, or is considered metastatic, advanced treatments allow for higher cure rates and patients living longer lives. There are five major pillars of therapy in cancer: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy. The most common treatments for prostate cancer are surgery, radiation therapies including proton therapy, and hormone therapy, a type of targeted therapy.

“With advanced prostate cancer, hormone therapy drugs work very well because this disease is somewhat similar to breast cancer,” explained Dr. Arora.

Hormone therapy is the use of hormones to trigger an increase in function or activity of another body part, or release of another hormone. This therapy is usually used in the treatment of cancers that respond to stimulation of specific hormones.

Lung Cancer

A close second when it comes to cancer diagnosis among men is lung cancer. A man has about a 1 in 15 chance of developing lung cancer, according to the ACS. Men who smoke are at a higher risk. Lung cancer also ranks as the number one cause of death related to cancer for men.

“As a matter of fact, it is called king in a bad sense,” said Dr. Arora. “The main cause is tobacco or cigarette smoke. Non-smokers can also get lung cancer, but the majority of lung cancer patients are cigarette smokers.”

Preventing Lung Cancer

The number one way to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke, but if you already smoke, you lower your risk of developing lung cancer by quitting.

“I always tell patients, in addition to helping one’s health, it helps your pocket,” explained Dr. Arora. “Now-a-days, a pack of cigarettes costs $7 a day – that’s $200 a month, $2,500 a year. People don’t think about how much money they are throwing in the fire. Quitting smoking at any age, helps.”

For help to quit smoking, visit karmanos.org/quitsmoking.

Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of lung cancer usually take time to develop, so early signs of the disease can be difficult to detect without a screening. The earlier lung cancer is found, the greater the chance of survival. See your health care provider if you have:

  • A cough that does not go away
  • A cough that causes you to bring up blood
  • Shortness of breath, wheezing or hoarseness
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Arm pain or weakness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

Lung Cancer Screening

If you are at an increased risk of lung cancer, you should be screened. Consider having a conversation with your primary care provider if you are:

  • 50-80 years old
  • Asymptomatic (having a cough that does not go away, hoarseness, shortness of breath, etc.)
  • A current or former smoker with at least a 20 pack-year smoking history (one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years)
  • A current smoker or those who have quit within the last 15 years

Lung Cancer Treatment Options

With the available advanced treatments, oncologists are able to offer patients more options, even with metastatic lung cancer. Lung cancer can usually be treated by surgical treatment, radiation therapy, proton therapy, and drug therapies.

“Immunotherapy and oral targeted therapies are very effective treatments, and also have improved the survival of metastic lung cancer significantly,” said Dr. Arora.  

Targeted therapies are generally given as a pill. These drugs can target the bad elements, or the cancer cells, while sparing normal cells that are not diseased. Dr. Arora uses a personal memory from when his daughter was in 4th grade to help explain how targeted therapies work.

“One day, my wife was scolding our daughter. Our 4th grader said, ‘Mom, attack the problem, not the person.’ That’s the point of targeted therapy. Attack the problem, not the whole body. With targeted therapy, the chances of cure improve and, relatively speaking, there are fewer side effects because it’s not attacking the whole body.”

Dr. Arora’s explanation of targeted therapies becomes clearer when thinking about the way chemotherapy works. Chemotherapy drugs are chemicals that kill cancer cells, just like targeted therapy drugs, but chemotherapy is indiscriminate - normal cells are also killed in the process which results in side effects.

Immunotherapy can also be used to treat lung cancer.

“Immune therapy drugs have made a revolution in cancer treatment today,” explained Dr. Arora. “They harness the body’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells. For example, think of a rogue element and a cop. The cop is going to catch him. If the criminal puts out some type of chemical and blinds the cop, he can’t see where the criminal is. Our immune system can detect and kill cancer cells, but cancer cells sometimes secrete a chemical that blinds the immune system, allowing the cancer cells to float around undetected. Immunotherapy drugs enhances the immune system, or unblinds it, so that the cancer cells can be detected.”

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men. About 1 in 23 men will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime, according to the ACS. Colorectal cancer is also the third leading cause of death among men.

“Colorectal cancer incidences are high and interestingly, for reasons nobody knows, we are beginning to see it more in younger and younger people,” said Dr. Arora. “It begins as a polyp, which is about the size of a small grape.”

Colorectal Cancer Signs & Symptoms

Though symptoms of colorectal cancer at the early stages are not usually present, there are symptoms you should know about, should you develop the disease in its later stages. The most common symptoms are:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or blood in the stool.
  • Cramping or pain in the lower abdominal (stomach) area
  • Constant tiredness, or lack of energy

Colorectal Cancer Screening

There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of the disease, so it is important to receive routine testing. Generally, men who are considered at average risk for colon cancer should begin screenings at age 45. If you are considered high risk, you may be encouraged to begin screening at an earlier age.

Men who are considered high risk for colon cancers are encouraged to speak with their physician about receiving a colonoscopy. Those who are at a high risk usually:

  • Are African American. African Americans are recommended to begin screening at an earlier age.
  • Have had colorectal cancer before
  • Have a history of ovarian, uterine or breast cancer
  • Have a family history of colorectal cancer or other genetic factors (e.g. Lynch syndrome, or familial polyposis)
  • Have a personal history of colorectal polyps
  • Have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), also known as Crohn’s disease or Colitis
  • Are obese and/or are physically inactive
  • Are regular tobacco or alcohol users
  • Have a diet that is high fat or high in red or processed meat and low in fiber, calcium, fruit and vegetables
  • Have Type 2 diabetes

“If the screening is good, the patient is good for 10 years,” said Dr. Arora. “If it’s abnormal, then more frequent colonoscopies will be needed.”

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Avoiding some of the high-risk factors listed above can help in preventing colorectal cancer, but screening can help with prevention, as well.

“When a gastroenterologist goes in while doing a colonoscopy, if he sees that grape or polyp, he can remove it,” said Dr. Arora. “Removal of a polyp during a colonoscopy can be cancer preventative.”

Colorectal Cancer Treatment Options

Colorectal cancers can be treated with surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, and drug therapies.

“Even in advanced stages, treatment options for colorectal cancer are much better than they used to be. We have targeted therapy and immunotherapy options. With screening methodologies and treatment options, we have changed the prognosis significantly,” said Dr. Arora.

Get Screened for Cancer

Cancer screening guidelines change frequently. Speak with your primary care provider about the types of cancer screenings you may need, and when to receive them. If you are ready to schedule a cancer screening, visit karmanos.org/flintcancerscreening.