(BPT) - A prostate cancer diagnosis can be shocking and scary, but there are ways to help ease anxiety and uncertainty around treatment options. A patient and his wife, a doctor and a national patient advocacy leader share some of the facts and their stories.
'When I heard I had prostate cancer I was concerned,' says Dan Woska, a prostate cancer survivor from Oklahoma City, Okla. 'I had thoughts about what this means for my wife and kids. I was also thinking 'What are my options?' and 'What can be done?' and the only person I really wanted to talk to about that was my wife, Debbie.'
'So he did,' she says. 'He talked to me about options and how he felt about them. It was very important that I was a partner in all of his decision making because it entails our lives.'
Dan and Debbie are one of many couples that had to have this difficult conversation.
In fact, in the United States, one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to Men's Health Network, but not all prostate cancers carry the same level of risk.
'In the case of high-risk cancer, immediate treatment like surgery can be life-saving,' says Dr. Uchio, director of urologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. 'The reality, however, is that more than half of men diagnosed with prostate cancer have low-risk disease that can be managed with active surveillance, a program of regular and close monitoring of the cancer. If you have these less-aggressive cancers, active surveillance provides an opportunity to delay or avoid treatments such as surgery or radiation.'
Your Prostate Your Decision was created in response to a national survey conducted by Kelton Research and supported by Men's Health Network (MHN), Prostate Health Education Network (PHEN), ZERO - The End of Prostate Cancer and Genomic Health. The campaign website and video featuring baseball Hall-of-Famer and prostate cancer survivor Joe Torre educates men and their loved ones that every man is different and every cancer is unique. Resources patients need to have a more productive discussion with their doctor are available at www.YourProstateYourDecision.com.
According to the survey there are misconceptions about prostate cancer leading men to likely choose surgery before getting all the facts about their cancer.
Few men consider active surveillance as a treatment option. In fact, only 10 percent of men ages 50 and older and 27 percent of their female caregivers correctly link active surveillance to prostate cancer instead of other diseases.
The survey also showed an alarming widespread misconception regarding prostate cancer risk and the need for immediate treatment. More than half of men over the age of 50 surveyed believe it is life-threatening and best treated immediately.
'These statistics highlight a significant potential for prostate cancer over-treatment,' says Thomas Farrington, founder and president of PHEN, an organization that focuses on addressing the prostate cancer disparity among African Americans who have the nation's highest prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates. 'With recent developments in medicine and emerging genomic tools like the Oncotype DX test, there is an opportunity for us to help relieve the anxiety experienced by men and their families in making the proper treatment decision by providing a scientifically precise assessment of each patient's prostate cancer aggressiveness.'
Developed in collaboration with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Cleveland Clinic, the Oncotype DX prostate cancer test helps physicians and their patients confidently choose the most appropriate treatment based on an individualized risk assessment.
'If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, you are ultimately responsible for making decisions concerning your health. And if you're going to be responsible for making decisions concerning your health, you're going to have to get educated about prostate cancer treatment options,' says Woska, who, based on the genomic makeup of his tumor, has been on active surveillance since 2013.