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Health expert urges awareness for prostate cancer

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Louie Baue and Joan Keit

Louis Baue, left, and Joan Keit sit together at a table in the Columbus Cancer Care Foundation office, 3764 39th Ave., on Thursday afternoon. September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Editor's note: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month is observed every September in the United States by health experts and advocates.

Cancer survivor Louie Baue advises men to regularly get screened for prostate cancer.

“I think they should be tested, and early, because it can get bad,” Baue said. “I’m not a person just to run to a doctor, either. Most men aren’t, I don’t think. But I do think that it’s very important to get checked.”

Columbus Cancer Care Foundation Medical Director Joan Keit said prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men and it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men. More men have prostate cancer than women have breast cancer, Keit said.

But, she said most people don’t have any symptoms. If they do, the cancer has probably progressed seriously.

“A lot of people think prostate cancer is not a big deal and that you don’t have to screen for it,” Keit said. “But, actually it kills more people than any cancer except lung cancer.”

There was a time when all men were screened, and the survival rate during that time was high, Keit said. Most would catch it early when it is easier to treat and cure. About a decade ago, she said, a government agency suggested that maybe we shouldn’t screen because people were doing so well.

“Turned out, when we stopped screening, that more people were dying again from prostate cancer,” Keit said. “Now the recommendations are that men should be offered the option of screening.”

The risk is higher for people who have family members with prostate cancer, particularly if those family members are younger. African American men are also at higher risk.

Starting at age 50, men should be screened every year. A prostatic-specific antigen (PSA) test helps identify prostate cancer.

“(PSA) is a molecule that’s made by prostate cells and prostate cancer, and it’s elevated in prostate cancer,” Keit said. “It’s a cheap and easy test.”

Not all men with prostate cancer require treatment, but without screening, it’s impossible to tell which cases need treatment and which don’t, Keit said.

“If someone has a PSA that’s a little elevated, we might watch it. If it continues to go up, that’s when we’ll consider a biopsy. And then based on the biopsy, we know for sure if it is a cancer,” Keit said.

If the biopsy reveals that cancer to have favorable characteristics, Keit said it does not need to be treated. But, she said, the PSA test and biopsy helps them find the intermediate and aggressive cases that could be fatal.

Keit said Baue, a 76-year-old Genoa resident, is a wonderful example. He was screened in 2018 and his levels indicated an intermediate-to-high risk. After watching him carefully, his doctors saw his risk begin to increase. He was diagnosed and soon began radiation therapy.

There are essentially two options for prostate cancer treatment, Keit said, and they are radiation therapy and biopsy. Which one people opt for tends to come to the side effects they are OK to deal with. The cure rates, she said, are essentially the same.

After 45 sessions of radiation therapy – once every weekday for nine weeks – Baue’s levels went down. He has been in remission since then.

“When people are diagnosed early, the treatments are pretty easy to go through,” Keit said. “When people are diagnosed later, they have more aggressive treatments which have more side effects.”

Baue experienced almost no side effects from his radiation therapy.

Because September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the foundation is asking businesses to encourage employees to wear blue on Thursdays to raise awareness for prostate cancer, Keit said.

The foundation is also currently raising money that will be used to support cancer patients in the area; it has been unable to do its normal fundraising activities because of COVID-19.

“Columbus Cancer Care Foundation puts at least $60,000 back into the community a year in different services – van rides, gas cards, wig programs, education, lift chairs,” Keit said. “We’re the only cancer society that gives in this area.”

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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