September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, however, for one Green Ridge man, prostate cancer has been on his mind nearly every day for the last few years.
Steve Manion, 69, is a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam. He has been screened for prostate cancer since 2014 at the Sedalia VA Clinic. Screening tests include a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a protein made by both normal cells and cancer cells in the prostate gland, and the chance of having cancer goes up as the PSA level increases. According to the American Cancer Society, men with a PSA level between four and 10, often called the “borderline range,” have about a one in four chance of having prostate cancer.
Manion said that in 2018 his PSA levels were going up and he ended up having two biopsies before the cancer was found.
“I had no symptoms at all and no pain, and my PSA level was a seven,” Manion said. “For treatment, I elected to have my prostate removed, and the doctors found that over half of it was cancerous.”
Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. Symptoms can sometimes include problems urinating, blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction, or pain, weakness or numbness in the hips, legs or feet.
About one man in nine will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. The cancer is more likely to develop in older men and in African-American men. About six cases in 10 are diagnosed in men who are 65 or older, and it is rare in men under 40. The average age at diagnosis is about 66.
Manion said that after surgery, his doctor wanted him to have precautionary radiation treatment.
“I’d had the surgery in Columbia, and I told him that was a long way to travel for radiation, so I decided to have it done in Sedalia at the Bothwell Cancer Center with Dr. Decker,” he said. “I had 35 treatments in January and February of this year. I had an excellent experience with them. Everyone was just super.”
Kara Sheeley, Bothwell Regional Health Center’s Oncology Services director, said cancer screenings are important because they look for cancer in people who don’t have any symptoms. The screenings are less invasive tests that your doctor might order if you have symptoms that could be from cancer.
“The goal of cancer screenings is to detect the cancer before you are experiencing symptoms,” she said. “Following screening guidelines can help detect a cancer in its earliest stages and lead to early diagnosis and additional treatment options.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Bothwell postponed elective surgeries and procedures and put in-person cancer screenings and general well checkups largely on hold. Sheeley said the decision was made to prioritize urgent needs and reduce the risk of the spread of the virus in the hospital and its clinics.
“There certainly was a decline in screenings during the early months of the pandemic,” she said. “Although patients who had been under surveillance have still received their continued screening, general population screening had a strong decline.”
Sheeley recommended that patients who had an appointment for a screening that was postponed or canceled talk to their health care provider about when to reschedule and noted that virtual visits are still an option for patients who want to be seen without physically visiting a clinic. She said it is especially critical to seek medical care when something doesn’t feel normal.
“In an unusual situation like a pandemic, it is vital for people not to ignore something they find or lingering symptoms that might be from cancer, for instance, a lump in the breast or blood in the stool,” Sheeley said. “Early detected cancers have better overall outcomes, so it is important to see your provider early as well as continue to schedule regular screenings and well checks to get back on track.”
Manion agreed with that assessment and especially urged men to get the PSA screening test.
“A lot of men may be afraid to go through the process, thinking it’s a threat to their manhood or because of intimacy issues with their spouse or loved one,” he said. “The kicker for me was that I had no symptoms. Everything was normal and I would not have known I had cancer without the test. It’s just a simple blood test, but it could save your life.”