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What Men Do

Communication system: check.

Navigation system: check.

Engine: check.

It happens like clockwork: The aircraft at the North Dakota Air National Guard in Fargo undergoes routine inspection to ensure every system is in top working order for the next mission.

“Guys I work with do this for a living, yet we’re reluctant to do routine checks of our own health,” says 54-year-old Ron Solberg, maintenance leader. “It’s like we’re 10 feet tall and bulletproof -- until something happens.”

Early detection, successful treatment

Since age 40, Ron has overcome reluctance and received annual physicals. Last fall’s exam with Terry Peterson, physician’s assistant at Sanford Clinic North Fargo, revealed a critical development.

His PSA test showed a slight increase compared to previous years. This blood test, along with a rectal exam, can detect prostate cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.

Though Ron’s PSA was well within the normal range, the increase was enough to warrant further investigation at Sanford Urology in Fargo. A thorough exam revealed a small lump, plus a biopsy came back positive. Ron opted for surgery -- the recommended treatment for a man his age and in his good health.

But not just any surgery. Since 2009, Sanford Urology has offered robotics technology -- a new approach to performing minimally invasive surgery. Less traumatic to the body, robotic prostatectomy requires five to six small incisions rather than one large one, setting the stage for a faster recovery.

Ron’s procedure took place Jan. 5. He went home the next day and three weeks later returned to work part-time. Traditional surgery would’ve laid him up twice that long. The surgical result was equally positive: early-stage cancer entirely removed with no further treatment anticipated.

“It pays to stay on top of this stuff,” says Ron. “I attribute my good outcome to annual physicals.” His PSA levels tracked over time led to a lifesaving diagnosis.

A different scenario

So what could have happened if Ron had not gotten his preventive care?

Dr. Thomas Noah, Ron’s urologist at Sanford, speculates: “He may not have had any trouble for a handful of years, but the cancer would’ve continued to grow and spread beyond the prostate gland. Once it’s spread, you can’t cure it. You can slow it down, but it likely will lead to death.”

In fact the statistics on prostate cancer are startling:

  • One in every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime.
  • Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for American men, killing approximately 32,000 a year.

Steps to take

Prostate cancer screening is key to early detection. When should it start? Guidelines vary, but Dr. Noah recommends:

  • Age 40 for African-American men
  • Age 40 for men with a family history of prostate cancer
  • Age 50 for all others

Dr. Noah stresses the need for both parts of the screening: the PSA test and the rectal exam. “The lab test alone is not sufficient,” he says.

Frequency after the first screening (the baseline) is best determined by your doctor. Factors include age, health and family medical history.

And a special note to women: “So often I hear comments like, ‘My wife wanted me to come in,’ or ‘My wife set up the appointment,’” says Dr. Noah. “Women are very influential when it comes to men’s health care.”

Anything else that can help? “A heart-healthy diet and exercise are definitely linked with prostate cancer prevention,” says Dr. Noah. “But there’s no evidence to support any of the supplements out there that supposedly cut prostate cancer risk.”

Ron’s advice

If you’re due for a prostate cancer screening -- or any type of cancer screening -- don’t delay. Sanford Clinics throughout the region offer the preventive care you need.

And take it from Ron: “I don’t know a guy out there who likes to be poked and prodded, but think of the alternative. The long-range unpleasantness of advanced prostate cancer is way worse than the short-term unpleasantness of a prostate cancer exam. Get done what you need to get done.”

Whatever your mission in life, you’ll fly higher if you maintain your health. Call your nearest Sanford Clinic today!

Posted Date: August 2011