February is Cancer Prevention Month: Join the Fortunate 40By: B. Robert Schwartz
Here’s one way to size up the potential of cancer prevention: Of the estimated 1.7 million new cancer cases expected to be diagnosed in 2019, the number of people who could fend it off can fill nearly nine Super Bowl stadiums.
That’s 680,000 cases, which represents the more than 40% of all cancers that stem from preventable causes such as smoking and physical inactivity. As we enter February, which is National Cancer Prevention Month, we should let this fact guide us and our loved ones.
We’re making progress toward that fortunate 40%. In 2019, an estimated 1,660 Americans are expected to die from cancer every day, but for those diagnosed today, the five-year survival rate is 40% higher than it was 40 years ago – 69% compared with 49%, according to a 2019 report by the American Cancer Society. This translated to more than 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths from 1991 to 2016 (nearly the population of Chicago).
If more than 40% of all newly diagnosed cancers in the U.S. can be sidelined, the prognosis is especially encouraging for the four cancers we specialize in detecting and treating at The Urology Group. Here’s the best defense for each:
- Prostate: Though among the most common cancers – an estimated 174,650 new cases are projected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019 – prostate malignancies are also among the most treatable. The five-year survival rate is 99%. Thirty years ago, 83% of patients survived five years. Early detection, which can be achieved through a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, is key. A recent study from the University of Gothenburg concludes that PSAs reduce prostate cancer deaths by about 30%. If you are 50 and older or at high risk, ask your doctor about a screening.
- Kidney: Of the 73,820 people expected to be diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2019, nearly 60% will be men, many older – the average age of diagnosis is 64. Kidney cancer is highly curable: If it’s detected early and confined to the organ, the five-year survival rate can be as high as 97%. Symptoms may include blood in the urine, lower back pain and a lump on the side or lower back. Smoking and obesity are high risk factors; a diet of nutrient-rich fresh foods and regular exercise enhance prevention.
- Bladder: Our bladders store and therefore are exposed to everything our urine contains, including the toxins in tobacco smoke. In fact, cigarette smoke causes more than half of the bladder cancers in the U.S., a study by Kaiser Permanente reports. In 2019, nearly 80,470 new cases are expected to be diagnosed; 61,700 in men. The best prevention includes avoiding cigarette smoke and staying well hydrated with caffeine- and alcohol-free fluids. Those who see blood in their urine, pee more frequently and experience pain while doing so should get tested. The five-year survival rate is 77%.
- Testicular: Unlike most cancers, testicular cancer tends to occur at a younger age – the average patient is 33. It is rare, developing in just one of every 250 men in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society. And in most cases, the five-year survival rate is better than 95%. Still, monthly self-exams are recommended. Symptom include pain in one or both testicles, changes in their shape or size and pressure in the lower back, abdomen or groin. If you’re unsure, ask your doctor to perform a screening.
This month, let’s do our best to reduce the number of people populating the cancer statistics. Prevention is within your reach. You can learn more about the cancers we treat, as well as prevention, here.