Men--have you had your prostate level checked?

By Karen Galarpe,

Posted at Jul 03 2010 12:35 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2010 11:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines - With one man every 19 minutes worldwide dying of prostate cancer, men should be more vigilant about this disease. But how can one be vigilant when this particular cancer shows no sign -- until it's too late?

The cancer that has been dubbed "the silent killer of men" has resulted in over 4,000 new cases and 2000 deaths in the country in 2005.

Former Senator Raul Roco succumbed to the disease in 2005, a year after he ran for president of the country. Others who have had the disease are Rosauro Salvador, the father of TV actress Maja Salvador, and Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper. The father of former New York City mayor Rudy Guilani also had prostate cancer.

According to Dr. Jason Letran, urologist at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center, University of Santo Tomas, and Chinese General Hospital, prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men worldwide. It is also the most common cancer in aging men.

Men--have you had your prostate level checked? 1
Urologist Dr. Jason Letran said prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in men worldwide.

The bad news is, said Dr. Letran, "one out of 5 prostate cancers will result in death within five years."


The first defense against a disease such as prostate cancer is awareness.

Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Healthway Medical recently joined hands to promote health awareness among Filipino men about this cancer.

The two recently launched a campaign to conduct Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests among men 50 years old and above.

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A simple PSA test done via blood extraction, such as the one in photo done on Conrado Mallari, may help pinpoint the incidence of prostate cancer.

"PSA is the single most significant predictive indicator to determine the risk of developing prostate cancer," said Letran.

Aside from offering a weeklong 30% discount on PSA tests at Healthway Medical branches, GSK and Healthway are also giving away 500 free coupons for PSA tests, which men can get from select urologists in Metro Manila. The coupons can be redeemed at any Healthway Medical clinic and at Sta. Lucia Health Care Centre in Metro Manila.

"Through this partnership with Healthway, GSK hopes to encourage more Filipino men to take on a more active role in looking after their prostate health," said Roberto Taboada, GSK President and Managing Director. "Knowing whether you're at risk for prostate cancer is the first step to protecting yourself against this life-threatening disease."

The Philippines is said to be the first country in Asia to have the first and only approved medication that can help reduce prostate cancer risk.

Simple blood test

Men need to have their PSA level checked regularly. PSA is a protein produced almost exclusively by the prostate, a walnut-sized reproductive organ of males found near the urinary bladder.

An elevated PSA level does not necessarily mean cancer (although it is one sign), but it does raise warning bells for other possible conditions: prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia), inflammation (prostatitis), or other non-cancer conditions such as urethra or prostate trauma resulting from bike riding, said Dr. Lou Chris Allen Reyes, urologic surgeon and endo-urologist consultant at St. Luke's Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center. He also took his clinical fellowship at the National University Hospital in Singapore.

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According to Dr Lou Chris Allen of the National University of Singapore, early detection can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

PSA testing is made via a simple blood test. At Healthway, a PSA test costs P2,800, according to Carmi de Leon, Vice President for Sales and Marketing of Healthway Medical.

Conrado Mallari, 70, a retired accountant, said he undergoes PSA testing regularly. "Mahirap magkasakit. Isipin niyo ang financial strain," he said. At his age, Mallari is still active, engaging in golf and brisk walking often.

Aside from PSA testing, other methods of detecting possible prostate cancer development are digital rectal examination and prostate ultrasound.

Who's at risk?

Those with a family history of prostate cancer, are aged 50 and above, and with elevated PSA level are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

Other possible factors that may contribute to prostate cancer development are diet (high in processed meat, dairy foods and calcium), alcohol, smoking, obesity, diabetes, race, prostate volume, occupational and ultraviolet (UV) exposure, and sexual behavior, shared Letran.

He also said Asians have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer as compared to Caucasians.

If prostate cancer is not diagnosed early, it can possibly spread quickly to other parts of the body such as the bone or brain. This lowers the chance for cure, and treatments may only prolong or possibly enhance the quality of life.

According to Letran and Reyes, treatment options may range from surgery to radiation, chemotherapy, medication, hormonal therapy, and active surveillance or "watchful waiting".

Reyes said surgery may be done the traditional way, where the surgeon opens up the body, or through the minimally invasive laparoscopic radical prostatectomy wherein only small incisions are made and surgery is done with the use of a laparoscope with a camera.

He also said surgery may be done with the use of a robot--the robot-assisted radical prostatectomy.

Reyes advises men to start getting their PSA levels checked at age 50 and above as the prostate gland starts to enlarge at that time. For those with risk factors, he advises even earlier testing.

"Early detection can reduce the risk of prostate cancer," said Reyes.