Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer diagnosed in American men, and it is the second-leading cause of cancer-related death behind lung cancer. There are no noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer in its early stages, which makes regular screenings critical. If caught early enough, before spreading to other parts of the body, nearly 100 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later (not including those who die from other causes).
If the prostate cancer has spread, only 34 percent of men are still alive in five years. Advanced-stage symptoms include difficult or frequent urination, blood in the urine or bone pain in the lower back or legs.
"September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and that's the perfect time for men to schedule their annual screenings," said SEARHC health educator Doug Osborne, who heads the recently formed WISEGUYS community men's health group in Sitka.
Prostate cancer is rare for men younger than 40 years old, and most cases occur in men older than 65.
Men who have had a father or brother with prostate cancer, Veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars (where Agent Orange was used) and African-American men all have significantly higher risks of getting prostate cancer.
There are two main types of prostate cancer screening examinations - a blood test called the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test and a physical exam of the prostate called a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam).
The screenings usually don't show if a man has prostate cancer, only whether further testing is needed.
Annual screening should start at 50 years old for most men, but men with higher risk factors should start annual screening at 45 (one risk factor) or 40 (more than one). Some men get a single PSA test at an earlier age (35-40) to establish a baseline for future exams.
Men can use nutrition and exercise to lower their risk for prostate cancer by as much as 30 percent, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.