The prostate cancer mortality rate is at its lowest point in history. According to new data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and reported by the American Cancer Society, the mortality rate has fallen 28 percent over the last decade.
However, I’m concerned. Over the last year, the mortality rate appears to be flattening out (2018: 19.5, 2019: 19.2). Nearly a decade of discouraging men from getting a simple blood test and physical exam by the United States Preventative Services Task Force is to blame. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force keeps men and general practice physicians in the dark about prostate cancer and what these recent breakthroughs mean for those at risk. Following the newest NCI numbers, here are the top five facts to consider when it comes to your risk for prostate cancer:
- Early detection is critical. Ignore everyone who tells you different. When prostate cancer is caught early, nearly 100 percent survive five years, 98 percent survive 10 years, and 96 percent survive 15 years.
- There are zero symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. Don’t wait for symptoms like back pain or frequent urination to occur and persist. Men over 40 should get a baseline prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test score, those with a family history, African Americans, and veterans should continue to get checked annually after this initial baseline and every man should get checked every year by age 50 regardless of any risk factors.
- About 90 percent of aggressive tumors are caused by genetic mutations. This means a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam may not be enough information before you begin cancer treatment. There are more than two dozen types of aggressive prostate cancer; but further blood tests and tools like MRIs that can identify if your cancer is life-threatening and will respond to different types of treatments before undergoing a painful trial and error approach.
- Every patient should ask their doctor, “What’s my AR-V7?”AR-V7 is an androgen receptor that allows cancer to generate a resistance to certain types of drugs. A simple blood test can determine if you are AR-V7 negative or positive. Those who are negative have a wider range of treatment options while those who are positive can avoid going through the pain and cost of a treatment that won’t work.
- The end of prostate cancer is closer than ever.More than 30 years ago, everyone who got HIV died of AIDS. Now, AIDS kills far fewer people because medicine treats HIV, stopping it from becoming AIDS. The use of precision medicine to get the exact diagnosis to determine the right treatment and the right amount of treatment will do for prostate cancer what modern medicine has done for HIV.
Here’s where we need your help. Some precision medicines to diagnose prostate cancer are still novel and researchers lack the data to compel the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force to adequately recognize the utility of these tools and require insurance companies to cover their costs. Please join ZERO as an advocate to help shorten the time to when we will see prostate cancer as a chronic condition instead of a killer. A good place to start is by watching a recent ZERO Live we produced for Facebook. I sat down with Dr. Nilay M. Gandhi of Potomac Urology to break down these latest numbers. ZERO’s goal is to educate you and activate you so that we can someday soon #EndProstateCancer!