Sunday, July 27, 2003

Henry can spread the word

Prostate cancer: Early detection

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry announced Wednesday he has prostate cancer. The day before having surgery to remove the tumor, he stood in front of reporters in Frankfort and talked about his disease.

We wish him a complete and speedy recovery and commend his openness on such a personal issue. As the state's second-in-command and a medical doctor, he is in a unique position to raise awareness of prostate cancer, which affects 200,000 men in this country every year. By speaking out, he can encourage early detection and treatment that may save many lives.

Thursday's surgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore Thursday was an apparent success. Henry's one of the lucky ones. The reason Henry's getting better, not worse, right now is simple: He caught it early. Henry plans on spending his recovery time talking about prevention and treatment of the disease. That's great news. Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer for men. The American Cancer Society recommends men get tested with a rectal examination and a PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test yearly, starting at age 50. But that's not enough. As Henry, 49, pointed out, men also need to know if special circumstances put them at a higher risk, as his own family history does.

The cancer society recommends that all African-American men and anyone else with a family history of the disease get tested starting at age 40.

Henry's doctor found his cancer with a PSA test, a test that can be useful, but is not perfect. Scientists warn that PSA blood tests can be wrong and shouldn't be used without the help of other diagnostic tests.

That shows how important it is to be engaged with your doctor, and to know enough about yourself and your risks to make smart decisions.

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