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Mikey Hoeven: It's time to talk about prostate cancer prevention

BISMARCK—Communication is key. We hear this frequently about relationships with our families and partners, but it's also important when it comes to relationships with our health care professionals.

Some types of cancer, including prostate, may not show any symptoms until the cancer progresses to a more advanced stage. For these cancers, it's vital to know the risk factors and options for screenings so you can take charge of your health. Since women are often the ones who make medical appointments for the men in their lives, this message is important for everyone.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and a good reminder to schedule a visit to talk with a health care professional about the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

In 2016, an estimated 180,890 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States, and more than 26,120 will die from the disease. In North Dakota alone, 400 men will be diagnosed and 60 will die from this disease. However, most men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from it.

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing is the primary screening method for prostate cancer (PSA levels are often higher in men with prostate cancer). If you are at average risk of prostate cancer, start talking to your health care provider at age 50 about the benefits and limitations of PSA testing. If you have a close relative who had prostate cancer before age 65 or if you are African-American, begin this talk at age 45.

African-American men are at high risk of developing prostate cancer and twice as likely as white men to die from it. If you have more than one close relative who was diagnosed with prostate cancer before 65, start this talk at 40.

Protect yourself by maintaining a healthy body weight, eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and getting regular exercise are good for your general health. Be sure to inform your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following: trouble urinating, blood in the urine or semen, erectile dysfunction or pain in the lower back, pelvis or upper thighs.

Some risk factors for prostate cancer are beyond your control, but the key to early detection and prevention is to be informed. Familiarize yourself with screening guidelines and your family history, and talk to your health care professional about your risk factors and the benefits and harms of testing. To find out more, visit www.preventcancer.org.

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