It is the most common form of cancer found in men. And, while it is likely the prostate cancer growing inside your body will grow slowly, that does not mean it is time to skip a screening or follow-up appointment with your primary care provider.
“Just like other forms of cancer, prostate cancer is going to grow slowly when it wants to and quickly when it wants to,” said Dr. Martha Terris, chief of urology at Augusta University Health and Witherington Distinguished Chair in the Medical College of Georgia. “Just because the statistics say one thing, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be just another statistic.”
Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for men, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The older you get, the higher your risk for developing the disease. The screening involves a physical exam, consisting of a digital rectal exam and a blood test to check the PSA level. If a patient misses his prostate cancer follow-up, all it takes is one phone call to make that appointment. Terris and her team know work deadlines, family situations and transportation problems cannot be avoided. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Terris and her fellow genitourinary oncologists have seen many patients virtually through telehealth systems to make sure those patients do not miss their follow-up appointments.
“My message to men is that when you are told your prostate cancer does not look very aggressive and we can just watch it, that does not mean you can ignore it,” Terris said. “If you don’t watch it, your tumor may be the one that’s not the benign-acting, slow-growing kind.”
According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures 2020 report, more than 6,700 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in Georgia this year. In South Carolina, the number is more than 3,300. Unfortunately, a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2018 found most men do not follow the proper guidelines after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Out of more than 1,600 men who participated in the study over six years, only 433 of them followed the proper guidelines and received a follow-up biopsy and three prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood tests within two years.
“We won’t be upset that you have missed an appointment, we just want to be sure you get followed up,” she said. “We now have members of the urologic oncology team at the Georgia Cancer Center practically every day. This allows us to work with a patient’s schedule to have his prostate check-up on a convenient day and time.”