Early diagnosis remains key to surviving prostate cancer

Photo by Linda Comins Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center, speaks informally Tuesday during a press conference for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Early Diagnosis Remains Key to Surviving Prostate Cancer By LINDA COMINS For The Times Leader WHEELING — Leading a healthy lifestyle and undergoing screening for early detection of prostate cancer are keys to men’s health, said Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center. Merrick, a urologic oncologist, spoke Tuesday at the hospital’s press conference for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. “Early diagnosis is key,” he said. “A lot of controversy” exists over prostate-specific antigen screening, but he said it is “a marvelous test” and “the most sensitive and important cancer marker ever developed.” In general, men are advised to receive PSA screening between the ages of 50 and 70. But Merrick recommends a first PSA test at age 40 to get an “uncontaminated” result for future reference. If the PSA number is high enough to merit further testing, a transperineal biopsy is preferable, rather than a transrectal biopsy, which carries significant risk of infection and can be very inaccurate, he said. Some of the biopsy work can be done safely in a doctor’s office. Various options exist when prostate cancer is identified, depending on the severity of the case and other factors affecting the patient’s life. Men with slow-growing prostate cancer are candidates for active surveillance, instead of treatment. At Schiffler Cancer Center, “we have only had to treat 3 percent of men in active surveillance,” Merrick said, adding, “Active surveillance is under-utilized in this country.” Patients who are under active surveillance have to be followed closely and must be compliant with dietary and exercise requirements, he said. Merrick predicted that over the next decade, slow-growing prostate cancer “no longer will be called cancer” because it does not grow or spread to other regions of the body. For men who have the most aggressive prostate cancer, brachytherapy is the most effective treatment, he said. Brachytherapy involves the surgical implantation of radioactive seeds into and around the prostate gland. Patients with an intermediate risk of having their prostate cancer worsen experience the highest cure rate with brachytherapy, he said. In terms of prevention, he said men live longer and are less likely to die of prostate cancer if they pursue aerobic and resistance exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet of high-fiber, low-fat foods. Noting that “exercise and diet are essential,” he said 150 minutes of exercise a week reduces the risk of 13 types of cancer.

WHEELING — Leading a healthy lifestyle and undergoing screening for early detection of prostate cancer are keys to men’s health, said Dr. Gregory Merrick, director of Wheeling Hospital’s Schiffler Cancer Center.

Merrick, a urologic oncologist, spoke Tuesday at the hospital’s press conference for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

“Early diagnosis is key,” he said.

“A lot of controversy” exists over prostate-specific antigen screening, but he said it is “a marvelous test” and “the most sensitive and important cancer marker ever developed.”

In general, men are advised to receive PSA screening between the ages of 50 and 70. But Merrick recommends a first PSA test at age 40 to get an “uncontaminated” result for future reference.

If the PSA number is high enough to merit further testing, a transperineal biopsy is preferable, rather than a transrectal biopsy, which carries significant risk of infection and can be very inaccurate, he said. Some of the biopsy work can be done safely in a doctor’s office.

Various options exist when prostate cancer is identified, depending on the severity of the case and other factors affecting the patient’s life.

Men with slow-growing prostate cancer are candidates for active surveillance, instead of treatment. At Schiffler Cancer Center, “we have only had to treat 3 percent of men in active surveillance,” Merrick said, adding, “Active surveillance is under-utilized in this country.”

Patients who are under active surveillance have to be followed closely and must be compliant with dietary and exercise requirements, he said.

Merrick predicted that over the next decade, slow-growing prostate cancer “no longer will be called cancer” because it does not grow or spread to other regions of the body.

For men who have the most aggressive prostate cancer, brachytherapy is the most effective treatment, he said. Brachytherapy involves the surgical implantation of radioactive seeds into and around the prostate gland.

Patients with an intermediate risk of having their prostate cancer worsen experience the highest cure rate with brachytherapy, he said.

In terms of prevention, he said men live longer and are less likely to die of prostate cancer if they pursue aerobic and resistance exercise and eat a heart-healthy diet of high-fiber, low-fat foods.

Noting that “exercise and diet are essential,” he said 150 minutes of exercise a week reduces the risk of 13 types of cancer.

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