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Healthwise: Prostate Screening

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

October 15, 2009

Over 300 men in Charlottesville go to a prostate screening at Martha Jefferson Hospital. The screening reveals abnormal results in 40 of those men, more than 10%. In this week's Healthwise segment, Cheryn Stone asks a urologist to share information that may save a life.

Dr. Julian 'Corky' Fagerli, a Urologist at Martha Jefferson Hospital, joined Cheryn Stone to discuss prostate screenings and how a simple test can save your life. He says that early detection means better treatments.

The prostate is a gland that is only in a man and in general is only the size of a walnut. Dr. Fagerli recalled one patient who waited to have his prostate screened.

"He was found to have mid-stage prostate cancer, went on to have surgery, and I don't know if he is going to be cured or not, because we caught it at a later stage than what we would hopefully find with routine screening," he said.

Late detection is a pattern Dr. Fagerli says he see way too much.

"The two ways that we examine or screen the prostate for cancer include the blood test called the PSA, which is also known as Prostate Specific Antigen, a chemical released only by the prostate into the blood stream. And we can get a measurement of that through a simple blood test. The other way is through a digital rectal examination where we feel the prostate, the size, the texture," he said.

Early detection gives doctors a better chance of early diagnosis and recovery. Plus, there are several treatments for those patients who are diagnosed early.

"Surgery where we remove the prostate. We can also use radiation treatment or seed implantation, tiny radioactive seeds that are permanently inserted into the prostate.Another option is hormone therapy," said Dr. Fagerli.

Dr. Fagerli wants men to pay attention to this issue, which is one he believe they either do not think about or don't want to think about.

"Not too many people are too excited to go an have a digital rectal exam, and it's something most patients don't think about until they start having problems with the prostate. Most patients we diagnose are completely a-symptomatic, they don't have any urinary problems, they don't have erectile dysfunction problems... out of sight of mind," he said.

The exams may be uncomfortable, but Dr. Fagerli wants men to consider the alternative. He recommends men start regular screenings at about age 50. However, those with high risk factors, including African-Americans or family history of prostate cancer, should start sooner.

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