Grow a Mo, Save a Bro!

By Hagop Sarkissian, MD

Grow a Mo, Save a Bro! Recognized worldwide during November, this slogan represents a movement across the globe to bring awareness to men’s health every year.

What is Movember and why should you care?

In 2003, two friends having a beer at a pub in Australia started a conversation about how mustaches went out of style and what they can do to bring them back.  Inspired by a friend’s mother who fundraised for breast cancer, they decided to start a similar campaign that would bring attention to men’s health and prostate cancer through the growth of a “Mo” a.k.a. mustache. Since then, every November, men across the globe, let their mustaches, beards and facial hair grow, to raise awareness and funds in support of men’s health – prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health, and suicide.

How common is prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer in men worldwide and the number one cause of non-skin-related cancer in men in the United States. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death or mortality in men, behind lung cancer, in the United States with an estimated 31,620 deaths for 2019.  There are over three million prostate cancer survivors in the United States today.

In 2019, it is estimated that 174,650 cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. More locally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2012-2016, showed 2,305 new cases in Oregon and 475 deaths due to the disease. More specifically, in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, 847 new cases were reported during this time period.

The diagnosis has a tremendous impact on men’s psyche, quality of life and its effects on their loved ones.

How do we screen for prostate cancer?

At age 50 (or sooner if there’s a family history of prostate cancer) it is recommended that you have a conversation with your primary care provider or urologist about the risks and benefits of obtaining a blood test called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). In certain cases, an elevation in this blood marker can be an early warning sign of having prostate cancer. Because the test is not perfect, it is important to discuss with your provider whether the test is appropriate for you.  While the PSA can help diagnose prostate cancer early, many people with an elevated test do not have cancer.

How do we diagnose prostate cancer?

The ONLY way to detect prostate cancer with certainty is to obtain a tissue sample from the prostate by undergoing a biopsy. There are other tests, such as a prostate MRI or urine test, that help to decide if a biopsy is needed, but they do not diagnosis prostate cancer. They simply provide a probability score of prostate cancer being present.

What are some options after a prostate cancer diagnosis?

Treatment options depend on the Gleason number/score which is based on the pathology from the biopsy. The Gleason number is a pathologically derived schema of how different the cancer is compared to normal healthy prostate tissue. A higher number indicates an increase in poorly differentiated cells and, hence, a higher risk category. For example, Gleason 6 is a lower risk than Gleason 10 (highest risk category).

Treatment options are tailored to the individual depending on the Gleason score, risk category, age, health status, etc. Below are various treatment options for non-metastatic prostate cancer:

  • Active Surveillance – watch and observe with possible treatment in the future
  • Cryotherapy – freezing of the prostate
  • Proton Beam Therapy – radiotherapy to irradiate diseased tissue
  • High Intensity Focused Ultrasound to the prostate
  • Brachytherapy – radioactive seed implants
  • Radiation – external beam radiation
  • Prostate surgery or removal of the prostate
  • Androgen Deprivation Therapy – hormone therapy to reduce levels of male hormones

Where to go from here?

Start having the conversation if you are over 50, or over 45 with a family history of prostate cancer or of African American descent. In this era of medicine there is absolutely no reason why a fairly inexpensive* test should not be used to potentially screen and save a life.

Let’s put our best “Mustache” forward and start the conversation.

Send us your best “Movember” picture on Facebook or Twitter.

*Check your coverage with your doctor and insurance company before undergoing any tests or procedures.

Dr. Hagop Sarkissian, board-certified urologist with Summit Medical Group Oregon, is the only Urologic Oncology Fellowship trained surgeon in Central Oregon and specializes in the DaVinci robotic prostate surgery.

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