Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancers. So, every September, we turn our attention to how we can combat this threat during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
Throughout the month, we can all make an extra effort to make sure we and our loved ones are taking every possible precaution against this awful disease. By raising awareness, we can help American men to make the best possible, well-informed decisions about their health.
Unfortunately, prostate cancer is all too widespread in the U.S. This year, it is projected to kill approximately 27,500 Americans, and 220,000 will receive new diagnoses, according to a White House proclamation.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that 15,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in New York State alone.
This makes prostate cancer the third most common type of cancer overall, and the most common type among men, the National Cancer Institute states.
Certain men face a greater risk for prostate cancer, such as older men, African-American men and those with certain inherited gene changes. Survival rates also vary quite widely and depend heavily on how soon the cancer was detected.
If it is caught while the cancer is still local or regional, the five-year survival rate for prostate cancer is a reassuring 99 percent. However, if it goes undetected until it spreads to another body location that is remote from the primary tumor, the survival rate drops to just 28 percent.
The good news is that prostate cancer rates have been on the decline in recent years. With greater awareness, healthier lifestyles, better screenings and further medical research, we can keep that trend line going down.
Common Medical Errors Leading to Delayed Prostate Cancer Misdiagnosis
Unfortunately, prostate cancer is not always diagnosed soon enough, or it is misdiagnosed in some other way.
One British study, reported on by the BBC, found that half of all surveyed men who were told that they had a less serious form of the disease in fact had quite advanced prostate cancer.
Of course, some men may live for years with tumors and suffer no health consequences. Yet, if the man’s cancer is aggressive, then missing the chance at an early diagnosis can be fatal.
Failure to diagnose may be medical malpractice. Some ways in which a doctor might misdiagnose prostate cancer include:
Failure to order prostate cancer testing, even though a patient reports symptoms. Prostate cancer does not always present symptoms early on. However, if male patients report difficulty urinating or bloody urine, doctors should follow up with the appropriate tests. If they do not, they are quite simply ignoring warning signs of cancer.
Failure to perform prostate screening/PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. After patients reach a certain age, their doctors should regularly screen them for prostate cancer. That specific age and the frequency of the tests will depend on the man’s risk factors such as his ethnicity, lifestyle and family medical history. Regardless, doctors must work with their patients to come up with a prevention plan.
Failure to order biopsy when prostate exams/PSA tests are abnormal or indicate need. If those early screens are performed and return potential abnormalities, a doctor must follow up and order a biopsy. Otherwise, the cancer can progress unchecked without the patient even knowing about it.
Biopsy tests are misinterpreted. Once those biopsy tests return, doctors must examine them for abnormalities. It is unacceptable to miss the appearance of a tumor.
Miscommunication between doctors. When it comes to a prostate cancer diagnosis, more than one doctor is likely to be involved. A general practice doctor should work with specialists during treatments. They must all communicate effectively with each other. If not, the result could be delayed or poor treatment.
When a medical error leads to a delayed cancer diagnosis, the patient (or the patient’s surviving family members) may be entitled to compensation for the malpractice. With the help of an experienced lawyer, patients and families can file a claim against the responsible medical professionals.
If you think you have a delayed diagnosis cancer case, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. He or she can review your medical records, consult medical experts and compile all of the necessary evidence for your case.
Take Control of Your Health – Get Screened for Prostate Cancer
Since early detection is the best method of prevention for prostate cancer, the best thing you can do is inform yourself about screening options – especially if you are at high risk for the disease.
Men are at higher risk not just due to genetic traits but also due to lifestyle factors: Obese men, smokers and men who work with toxic substances are all at greater risk. Even diet can have an effect. For instance, eating lots of meat and dairy products seems to be linked to a higher chance of getting prostate cancer.
There are a few different ways to get screened and tested for prostate cancer. Screenings refer to procedures that happen before any hint of the disease. They are performed on healthy people as a way to make an early detection.
A doctor might perform a PSA test, which is a blood test to look for the presence of prostate-specific antigens in a man’s blood. Otherwise, the most common type of prostate cancer screening is a digital rectum exam, where a doctor feels the patient’s prostate to look for abnormalities in the gland.
Tests, on the other hand, are performed when there is already some sign of the disease. These tests may include biopsies and MRIs.
Since September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, now is the perfect time to take your health into your own hands and explore screening options.
For instance, Crouse Hospital in Syracuse will offer free screenings later this month. (You must make an appointment.)
Given the great health benefits to early detection, there is no reason not to talk to your doctor about screening options.
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