NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As a medical oncologist, Dr. Mark Fleming not only treats prostate cancer patients, he has a personal history with it. He lost his father to the disease in 2008.
“My father was my hero,” Fleming said. “He was a physician as well, so I wanted to be like my Dad and he was from the generation that he didn’t share what was going on.”
Prostate cancer is relatively common in men. The CDC reports that out of every 100 men in America, about 13 will be diagnosed with it. All men are at risk, but African-American men are more likely to get it.
Fleming discussed the important of men talking about their health and family history, and also getting screened.
“For a long time, we focused on the digital rectal exam and men were afraid of that,” he said. “They didn’t want to do that. They didn’t want anyone going back there.”
Now, doctors use a simple blood test called a prostate specific antigen, or PSA, to detect risk.
Fleming recommends that men get their first PSA screening between ages 45 and 50 to establish a baseline. Your doctor will then monitor it over the years. A quick jump in numbers could indicate prostate cancer and a need for treatment.
Prostate cancer is very treatable when diagnosed early. Fleming said there is no best treatment option, however, as that can vary depending on a man’s age and lifestyle.
“Treating prostate cancer is like my wife’s closet of black shoes,” he said. “My wife doesn’t look in her closet and say, ‘This is the best shoe.’ It’s the right shoe for the right occasion.”
That treatment could involve:
- Proton therapy
Again, for Fleming, the fight is personal.
“I had a scare,” Fleming said. “My PSA had jumped and it was unclear why. I was on my doctor, like, ‘No, we’re getting tested in three months to stay on top of this because I have a lot of things to live for. I have a wife, I have kids, and I have patients to take care of.”
Most men who get prostate cancer have no symptoms at all. That’s why Fleming stresses the importance of screening.
If you’re age 45 or older, talk to your doctor.