Ten-minute screenings can save lives

Published 5:16 pm Sunday, May 7, 2023

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in America, often presenting no noticeable symptoms until diagnosis comes too late for effective treatment. To promote early prostate cancer diagnosis, the Urology Health Foundation and the Butler County Health Department are partnering to host a free prostate cancer screening for men of Butler, Lowndes, and Crenshaw counties, ages 40 years and older, on May 13 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Dr. Thomas Moody, president of the Urology Health Foundation, said early detection is vital for successful prostate cancer treatment. 

“You can have [prostate cancer] for several years before it starts to spread and causes symptoms,” Moody said. “By then it is too late. Early prostate, when it is curable, has virtually no symptoms. If you catch it  early it’s about 95% curable.”

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Moody stressed the importance of regular screenings, which provide the best way to maximize a man’s chances of discovering the cancer while it is still in its early and most curable stages.

“There are no noticeable symptoms of prostate cancer while it is still in the early stages,” Moody said. “If a man with prostate cancer waits to act until he has symptoms, the cancer may already have grown outside the prostate and progressed to the point where it is rarely curable.”

Moody said age and race are the strongest risk factors for prostate cancer. African American men are at special risk for the disease, experiencing the highest death rate of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S.

The foundation notes that a man’s risk of prostate cancer increases if he has a close relative with the disease. Now more than ever, the foundation encourages those at highest risk to be screened, especially if screenings have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Routine screening for all cancer was significantly down during the pandemic and it’s been shown that for most cancers, especially prostate cancer, there were a lot of missed opportunities [for diagnosis and treatment.]”

Moody explained that the number of men checked for prostate cancer has dropped by around 22% in Alabama. In Butler County, 460 men completed screenings in 2019. Last year that number was down 48%, with only 241 men tested.

Screenings for Crenshaw County men were at 289 in 2018, but down to 202 in 2022. In Lowndes County, the decline was less drastic, with 99 men completing screenings in 2019 but only 91 tested in 2022.

Prostate screenings involve a simple blood test which measures protein levels, called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the blood. PSA levels are usually very low, but elevated PSA can indicate prostate cancer. A digital rectal exam is also given and together, the test takes only around 10 minutes but can potentially save a man’s life.

According to Health Department Director Elaine Womack, Butler County office has hosted prostate screening events for roughly five years.

“We started the screenings around 2018,” Womack said. 

Health Department personnel will be on hand to facilitate screenings and offer information about resources available through the agency.

“If someone has questions about the services we offer, we can answer questions for them,” Womack said.

The screening clinic will be held at the Butler County Health Department on 350 Airport Road in Greenville. Face masks will be optional, and no appointments are needed.

For more information about this free screening, contact the Health Department at (334) 382-3154.