“You can’t ignore changes in your body and that’s typically what men do,” says board-certified and fellowship-trained urologist Dr. Michael O’Leary who leads the medical team in the Men’s Health Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital.
This Movember, Dr. O’Leary reminds all men to take control of their own health by engaging in conversation with their doctor about two cancers specific to men: testicular cancer and prostate cancer. “The more invested men are with their health, the more likely they are to stay healthy,” he says.
According to the American Cancer Society, roughly 8,850 new cases of testicular cancer were diagnosed in 2017. Unlike some cancers, there are no formal recommendations for screening exams associated with testicular cancer. However, that doesn’t mean men can’t do their part to detect it early should symptoms develop.
“Testicular cancer is a disease of younger men,” says Dr. O’Leary. “It’s recommended by the American Urologic Association that men from their teens through adult life do regular self exams, much like women are encouraged to do breast self exams. It’s important to know your own anatomy so you can recognize changes.”
If testicular cancer is found, men should rest assured that the prognosis is often good. “The good news about testicular cancer is that it has a very high cure rate, even with very advanced disease,” says Dr. O’Leary. “The general course of treatment is surgical removal of the testicle followed by chemotherapy or potentially radiation or further surgery for advanced disease.”
Older men are at risk for prostate cancer. It is recommended that men between the ages of 50 and 70 consider getting annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screenings and digital rectal exams. Dr. O’Leary explains, “It’s not recommended before age 50 unless you have a family history of prostate cancer (a father, brother or other direct male relative with prostate cancer) or if you are African American.”
Dr. O’Leary suggest men have a conversation with their doctor about their need for prostate cancer screening. “I’m a firm believer that screening does improve survival,” says Dr. O’Leary. “However, some men fear that screening may lead to unnecessary treatment.”
The screening itself is nothing to fear promises Dr. O’Leary. “The procedure is easy. It’s just an exam in the office and a blood test,” he says.
If a tumor is detected upon screening, treatment options vary based on the size and aggressiveness of the tumor. “Some tumors don’t even need to be treated. If it’s small in volume and not aggressive, those patients may just undergo what’s called active surveillance where we watch closely,” says Dr. O’Leary. “If the tumor looks like it’s becoming more aggressive or the volume is increasing, then we can treat it. More aggressive tumors are generally treated with radiation or surgery.”
Are you ready to invest in your own health? Call Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital’s Men’s Health Center today at 617-732-6398. You can also email BWHUrologyNPRequest@partners.org for more information or to make an appointment.
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