Geoff McLennan, MPA, Prostate Cancer Patient and Advocate

Men and their families should be aware of prostate cancer (PCa), as roughly 300,000 men are diagnosed annually in the U.S. alone, and it can occur in men as early as their 20s. Let’s get started.

What is prostate cancer (“PCa”) ?
Perhaps we should begin by asking “What is cancer?” Cancer happens when cell division in tissue goes into overdrive, and cancerous cells replace healthy cells in the body and destroy healthy tissue. But don’t get terrified, because not all cancers are life threatening. Some cancers, such as colon, pancreatic, and certain skin cancers can be aggressive, whereas other cancers can be benign, slow-growing, or pose no immediate threat to life. Although PCa is a very common diagnosis, when detected early, it is highly manageable, and most men do not die from it.

So why do some men get prostate cancer at early ages? Well, early PCa is rare. Most men are diagnosed with PCa after 67 years of age, although genetic testing such as the MyRisk® Hereditary Cancer Test can provide you and your doctor with a risk assessment for PCa based on your family history. Family history of PCa is critical in knowing the chances of younger men having PCa. Research indicates a close genetic link to a PCa diagnosis at a younger age. It is a good idea to talk with your blood relatives about any family history of cancer and consider the MyRisk test.

Prostate Cancer Screening
Begin by asking your primary care doctor when they recommend screening for PCa. According to the American Cancer Society, there are various reasons for when to get tested, such as family history, ancestry, and even signs of a growth in your prostate such as a tumor. ACS screening recommendations as follows:

• Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer.
• Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).
• Age 40 for men at even higher risk (those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age).

The most common tests for PCa screening are the PSA blood test, which measures protein produced by the prostate in your blood, and the digital rectal exam, in which the doctor inserts a finger into your anus and feels along the outside of the prostate for irregularities. Both tests are a basic start for your screening, involve little or no discomfort, and usually begin in men around age 50 who do not have a family history, genetic test, or possible signs of PCa. Not all prostate disorders are cancer, as are other prostate illnesses that are noncancerous, such as an enlarged prostate also known as “BPH”. There are drawbacks to the PSA test, such as age, infection, and the enlarged prostate that increase the PSA score. Consider the PSA test as a “check engine light” instead of a finish line.

What I can I do to reduce my risk of PCa?

A proactive lifestyle (lean diet, exercise, and avoiding carcinogens) is a practical way of lessening, if not preventing, aggressive PCa. Researchers at most major medical institutions in Europe and the US report that reducing fats and sugars in the diet, as little as 10 minutes of daily exercise (although 150 minutes a week is better), and getting adequate sleep are ways to prevent aggressive PCa and slow the growth of any cancer in your body, including PCa.

It is also wise to be tested to determine if you have any inherited mutations that may increase your risk of various cancers. The MyRisk test mentioned above is one of the best as it analyzes a patient’s risk of developing 11 different cancer types. Learn more about MyRisk testing.

As we have provided in the points above, there are actions you can take to prevent, know and live with PCa. Share this information with your family. Be open with the men in your family and the women, as they too, can benefit from hereditary cancer testing as known mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2 can cause breast, cervical and other cancers in women. Treat cancer as a family research project and know that Myriad and I are on your side.

To learn more about prostate cancer, view Myriad’s comprehensive eBook that covers information from diagnosis to treatment decisions, nutrition and more.

Stay tuned for the next post this month on what to know after a PCa diagnosis.

Read more like this: Patient Prostate Cancer Journey Part 2: Getting to Active Surveillance

Geoff McLennan, MPA, Prostate Cancer Patient and Advocate

Author Bio:

Geoff is dedicated to helping families and friends support a prostate cancer patient. He joined the board of Active Surveillance Patients International (ASPI) in 2018 and is an 11-year PCa patient. As a PCa patient advocate, he envisions providing a broad understanding of how patients can collaborate with clinicians for realistic medical care. He enjoys meeting and learning from his clinicians, cancer researchers, providing free online programs for patients, and reminds us that “to live, learn and thrive with PCa” is the motto of ASPI. He is glad he took science courses for understanding a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise and diet.

Geoff also volunteers as a board member and past chairman of the Placer County Mental Health Advisory Board where his interest includes therapy and resources for AS men, and a broad oversight of community mental health programs and innovations. He is married to Constance McLennan, a fine artist, has a grown son, and lives in Northern California.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views or opinions of Myriad Genetics or its affiliates. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider.