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OU Med Center Edmond offers prostate screening, but it's not for everyone

Oklahoma City — September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, according to the American Cancer Society, and that means a litany of messages urging men to get screened.

Not every man will benefit from screening, however, and a positive result doesn't necessarily mean a man needs aggressive treatment.

Leslie Buford, spokeswoman for University of Oklahoma Medical Center Edmond, said the campus' outpatient lab will offer free screenings to eligible men in September, but men should consult their doctors about the potential benefits and the risk of false-positive results.

The Edmond screenings are available for all men 55 and older, and for men 45 and older who are African-American or who have a family history of prostate cancer. Black men are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men, and twice as likely to die from it, according to BioMed Central Urology journal. It isn't entirely clear why, though some theories are that African-American men may be less likely to be diagnosed early, or that their tumors may react differently to male sex hormones.

Men who have a PSA result above 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood should follow up with their primary care doctors or a urologist for a digital rectal exam, Buford said. The PSA isn't perfect, because inflammation in the prostate can also cause it to rise, but it can help catch tumors early, she said.

“The thing about prostate cancer is it's slow-growing, so there's not that much symptoms until it's full-blown,” she said. PSA testing “is just another tool, really.”

Older men need to consider their overall health when deciding whether to get screened, said Michael Cookson, chairman of the Department of Urology at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Many tumors take so long to grow that patients will die of something else first, and the effects of treatment may not be worthwhile, he said.

From 3 percent to 10 percent of men report frequent urinary leakage two years after prostate cancer treatment, and from 61 percent to 79 percent report erectile dysfunction, according a 2013 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The odds varied based on the treatment method that men choose.

Men who do get tested should get a follow-up test to rule out temporary inflammation as a cause of a high PSA number, Cookson said. If the second test also finds high levels, a man can consider a biopsy to determine if he has cancer. Biopsies can cause infections, bleeding and difficulty urinating, however, so they may not be right for everyone.

After a biopsy, doctors then can determine how aggressive the cancer is, Cookson said. Men with less-aggressive cancers might opt to have regular follow-ups and only seek treatment if it becomes necessary later, to try to avoid side effects as long as possible, he said.

About one in every six or seven men will develop prostate cancer in a lifetime, and about one in 40 die from it, Cookson said, so the key is finding the minority who need aggressive treatment.

“We want to detect the ones that are going to impede someone's health,” he said.

Locations offering free prostate specific antigen screening in September:

University of Oklahoma Edmond outpatient lab, Medical Office Building Suite 301, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays in September. Walk-ins accepted. For all men 55 and older, or higher-risk men 45 and older. For more information, call (405) 359-5518.

Southwestern Urology, 5604 SW Lee Boulevard, Suite 200, Lawton, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 7. For men 40 and older. Includes a blood test and digital rectal exam. For appointments, call (580) 531-4860.

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›