Screening is essential for early detection

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By William K. Alcorn


Gentlemen, start your staches.

It’s Movember time, the campaign in November when men who don’t usually sport facial hair grow mustaches to raise awareness about prostate cancer.

Movember aims to increase early cancer detection, diagnosis and effective treatments, and ultimately reduce the number of preventable deaths.

“We’re localizing the international Movember campaign,” said Dr. Daniel J. Ricchiuti of Northeast Ohio Urology Associates.

“It’s a fun way for guys to get involved and raise awareness about a very serious issue, especially in the Mahoning Valley,” Dr. Ricchiuti said.

One in six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. More than 238,000 will be diagnosed this year and 30,000 of them will die, he said.

Still, many men, including a higher-than-normal percentage of men in the Mahoning Valley, don’t get regular prostate-cancer screenings.

“It’s a problem in all areas, but especially in the Mahoning Valley. Our goal is to raise awareness about prostate cancer here and encourage men to talk with their doctors and get annual screenings,” said Dr. Ricchiuti.

Movember, Nov. 1-30, is when participants start the month clean shaven, but grow and groom their mustaches the rest of the month.

“The mustaches, especially on men who don’t usually have one, is a conversation starter. When somebody says something about it, that’s an opportunity to say, ‘I’m growing it to raise awareness about prostate cancer and the need for routine annual screenings,’” Dr. Ricchiuti said.

The doctor, in the process of growing a mustache, said his is “pretty weak right now,” and he admitted, “my wife doesn’t like it.”

Dr. Ricchiuti along with Man Up Mahoning Valley, HMHP Cancer Centers, HMHP Development Foundation, NEO Urology and several community leaders have joined forces to generate awareness about prostate cancer and encourage men to get the screenings that could save their lives.

Among the community leaders are Randy Dunn, Youngstown State University president; Deryck Toles, former Warren G. Harding High School and professional football player; and the Rev. Dr. Lewis W. Macklin II, Youngstown pastor and member of the Youngstown City District Board of Health.

There are no symptoms until the disease is in advanced stages, but most prostate cancers can be cured if they are discovered early, making routine screenings imperative.

Screenings consist of a digital rectal exam and a blood draw to check the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA). It’s important to get both the exam and the PSA test, Dr. Ricchiuti stressed, because with many men, suspicious findings are detected by one and not the other. He recommends men begin annual prostate- cancer screenings at age 40.

Screening is particularly important for African-American men in the Mahoning Valley because they are twice as likely to get prostate cancer and to die from it than any other race, according to Man Up Mahoning Valley.

The reasons African-American men are more likely than men from other races to get prostate cancer are genetics and that they are more likely to get a more lethal form of the disease. They are also less likely to get screened, Dr. Ricchiuti said.

He strongly disagrees with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation last year about the effectiveness of PSA testing without related signs or symptoms.

“It has done massive damage. I’m seeing more men coming in with late-stage cancer. In my mind, there is no controversy. Both the PSA and digital examination are needed,” Dr. Ricchiuti said.

“We hope we’ll have men throughout the entire community challenging their friends, families and co-workers to grow mustaches and spread the word about the importance of routine prostate cancer screenings.”

“We hope women will get involved, too. Women can’t grow mustaches, but they can encourage the men. Women are very important,” Dr. Ricchiuti said, “because they are often the ones who insist that the men in their lives see their doctors.”

Finally, he said: “I’d like guys to know that at age 40, whether they have a family history of prostate cancer or are African-American, they should start talking to their doctors about screening. Don’t ignore it. Every man needs to be concerned.”

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