What you need to know about prostate cancer awareness

HOUSTON – September is National Prostate Health Month and millions of men get the diagnosis every year. 

And it's hitting close to home for the KPRC2 family.

Chief meteorologist Frank Billingsley recently received news from his doctor that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"I had no symptoms of this disease and last May happened to be talking to Dominique Sachse about nutrition and diet. She suggested going to her doctor, who ran a standard blood panel and discovered my PSA prostate cancer test that was off the charts. So my summer has been one of letters: PSA, DRE, MRI, CAT, etc. The message is, like with any cancer, the sooner you know, the better the prognosis. Prostate cancer is not an old man’s cancer, it’s a man’s cancer. Anyone over 40 should be tested during their regular checkups," Frank said.

Frank wanted to share the news with our users and viewers because all of you are part of our extended family and we want all of you to be aware of the risks and symptoms.

One in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Dr. Adam Hollander, with Memorial Hermann Medical Group in Greater Heights, said that because of those high numbers he could probably diagnose a new patient every day.

Risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • A family history of the disease.
  • Being an African-American male.
  • Being a male between 50 and 70 years old.

"I would certainly encourage anyone in the target age group, sort of 50s to 70s, to talk to their doctor about prostate cancer screening," Hollander said.

Memorial Hermann encourages African-American men and those with a family history of prostate cancer to test each year beginning at age 40.

Even though the word "cancer" is scary, Hollander said there is a lot of optimism regarding prostate cancer. He said the disease is curable before it spreads. 

Common places it spreads are in the bones, lymph nodes and brain. When cancer spreads to those spots in the body, it can be deadly.

If prostate cancer is isolated inside the prostate, many patients can choose to simply live with it and observe the growth.

"If they start to look like they're advancing, then we would consider treatment. If the prostate cancer seems to be very aggressive or if the patient is very young, then we do recommend treatment," Hollander said.

If men choose to be treated, then decisions get tough. Patients choose from a number of options including, but not limited to, surgery to remove the prostate, different types of radiation or proton therapy. Doctors said each comes with different side effects.

"It depends on, a little bit on whether the patient wants to undergo a surgical procedure or not, and which set of side effects sounds more palatable to them," Hollander said.

Unfortunately, many men trying to avoid the tough decisions can miss their window of early detection. Finding prostate cancer early leads to the easiest and best outcomes.

The exam includes a PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, blood test and takes less than 10 minutes, Hollander said.

Prostate cancer may cause no symptoms, but Memorial Hermann recommends you tell your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Pain during urination.
  • Frequent urination, especially at night.
  • Pain in the upper thighs, hips or lower back.
  • Not being able to urinate.
  • Blood in the semen or urine.
  • Painful ejaculation.

To learn more about how to reduce your risk of prostate cancer through lifestyle, check out Blue Cure Foundation.


About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.