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Healthwise: Prostate Cancer Screenings

September 15, 2010

The urologist's office is a place some men are not exactly thrilled to visit, but just a few minutes at a prostate screening can make all the difference.

"Prostate screening allows for detection early and then treatment early," said urologist, Geoff Habermacher.

Dr. Habermacher, of Urological Associated in Charlottesville, recommends men start prostate screenings at age 50. Although, African-American males or men with a family history of prostate cancer should get an earlier start; age 45 if they have one of the two risk factors and age 40 if they have both.

"The fundamental thing to understand is that prostate cancer does not have any symptoms at early stage, so you can be feeling great. Everything can be working, urinating fine, all these things we associate with the prostate, and [still] have prostate cancer," said Dr. Habermacher.

So, what can you expect when you step foot in the exam room?

"A PSA blood test, digital rectal exam and kind of an abbreviated history with regard to previous family and medical history," said Dr. Habermacher.

If the patient has an abnormal screening, a prostate that feel abnormal or an elevated PSA blood test, the next step is a biopsy.

"[The] biopsy is done in the urology office and takes about 10-15 minutes. It's done with an ultrasound probe and you get small bits of prostate tissue," said Dr. Habermacher.

The procedure tells the doctor if the patient has prostate cancer and how much is present inside and outside of the prostate. Once the doctors knows this information, he/she is able to administer the best possible treatment.

"It falls into two main categories: curative treatments, like things that are targeted at curing the prostate cancer, and surgery/radiation. Those two types of treatment can cure if it's caught within the prostate," said Dr. Habermacher.

However, cancer that is outside of the prostate really cannot be cured. It can be held in check by hormonal treatments, like shots or pills.

Despite possible apprehension about prostate screenings, doctors says it's better to be safe than sorry. And Martha Jefferson Hospital is offering free prostate screenings Saturday, September 18 from 7:45am to 10:45am. No registration is needed. Patients will be seen on a first-come-first-serve basis.


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