GUEST COMMENTARY: Be wary of prostate cancer

Friday, September 11, 2009 | 9:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

While there are many serious issues facing our country today, nothing is more important than the health of Americans and one of the diseases that thousands of families face each year is prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer develops most frequently in men over 50 and is the most common type of cancer in men in the U.S. not including skin cancer, with a predicted 192,280 new cases in 2009 including, unfortunately, 27,360 predicted deaths from it. In fact, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men after lung cancer.

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I bring these sobering facts to your attention because September has been designated as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which provides us with a unique opportunity to raise awareness about this awful disease and discuss how we can work together to find a cure.

National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month also provides us with a chance to celebrate those who have survived this disease and support those brave men, and their families, who continue to battle this killer.

Thanks to the high quality of our health care system, data collected by leading oncologists from across the world has found that the survival rate of prostate cancer patients in the United States stands at around 100 percent at 5-years, 92 percent at 10-years and 70 percent at 15-years.

Despite the best efforts of our researchers and physicians, prostate cancer cannot at this time be prevented, and usually doesn't produce any noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Men over the age of 50 are also encouraged to consider a prostate exam once a year in an effort to keep healthy and perhaps catch the disease early, making it much easier to treat.

While yearly testing is important, medical professionals also suggest that there are measures men can take to help reduce their risk or possibly slow the disease’s development including:

— Limiting your intake of high-fat foods and emphasizing fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help you reduce your risk.

— Getting regular exercise that helps strengthen your immune system, improve circulation and speed digestion — all of which may play a role in cancer prevention.

Prostate cancer affects many of us personally. You may know of someone who has either been tested for prostate cancer or been diagnosed with the disease. Some of us may even have a family member, friend or neighbor who has passed away.

That is why if we work together, not just during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, but all year long, perhaps someday we can beat this vicious killer.

Blaine Luetkemeyer is the representative for Missouri's Ninth Congressional District.

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