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Health Team

Prostate cancer survivor: 'Get screened for your family'

Posted September 21, 2009 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2009 7:46 p.m. EDT

— About one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and about one in every 35 men will die from it. The best chance for survival is early detection through screening.

Joe Calcutt, 53, could have been included among the cancer survivors' portraits at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital. He has always believed in preventative care, including prostate cancer screening.

“Every time I would go to a physician (to) have cholesterol, lab work drawn, I'd say, 'Pull a PSA,’” he said.

Last year, his doctor noticed his prostate specific antigen, or PSA, number was rising. An elevated number in the blood may be a sign of prostate cancer, so Calcutt had a biopsy, which confirmed he had a small tumor.

“Unfortunately, we don't know how to prevent this disease yet. In the absence of being able to prevent it, the best we can do is early detection,” said UNC Urologic Surgeon Dr. Raj Pruthi.

Black men and others with a family history of prostate cancer should begin screening by age 40. All men should begin PSA and digital rectal exam screening by age 50.

Early detection gave Calcutt more treatment options. He chose surgery to remove the prostate gland with robotic surgery, rather than the standard open surgery.

“Providing our patients a less invasive approach, allowing them to recover more quickly,” Pruthi said.

“You spend one night in the hospital, you go on. You go home,” Calcutt said.

No radiation or chemotherapy is necessary.

“You don't have to get screened for yourself, but you need to get screened for your family. So I can tell you, this is not as bad a deal as you think,” Calcutt said.

The North Carolina Cancer Hospital at UNC is offering free prostate cancer screening this Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 7 p.m., no appointment necessary.