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Al Roker Urges Men to Know Prostate Cancer Risk

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TODAY show weatherman and co-host Al Roker recently revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis and urged viewers — especially Black men — to understand their own risk. 1 in 7 African American men, 1 in 9 men overall, will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.

The good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer, especially in its early stages, can survive it. That’s why detecting this cancer early, when it’s most treatable, is so important.

"The problem for African American men is any number of reasons, from genetics to access to health care, and so we want to make it available and let people know they got to get checked," Roker said.

Getting Screened for Prostate Cancer

Roker’s cancer was found thanks to a routine physical. That’s why it’s critical to have that relationship with a primary care provider who knows you well — and knows what screenings are right for you based on your age and health history.

There are a number of screening options available to help detect prostate cancer, including: 

  • Digital rectal exam (DRE): Allows your doctor to check your prostate for lumps (polyps) or anything unusual

  • Prostate-specific antigen test: Checks for an increased prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, which could be a sign of infection, inflammation or an enlarged prostate

  • Prostate cancer gene 3 RNA test: Measures the amount of PCA3 RNA in your urine 

In Roker’s case, bloodwork showed elevated PSA. The PSA test is very useful as a screening tool, but doesn’t automatically lead to a cancer diagnosis.

When your test results show high PSA, you may be re-tested using a different version of the PSA, the 4Kscore test, to look for evidence of prostate cancer. An MRI or biopsy can also allow your doctor to take a closer look.

When to Consider Prostate Cancer Screening 

Although the medical community agrees it’s a good idea, there isn’t a hard and fast rule on when prostate cancer screenings should start, or which screening methods should be used.

Screening depends on your individual health and unique medical and family history; your doctor can evaluate your risk and create a screening plan that’s right for you.

Since prostate cancer usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms, especially in early stages, the American Cancer Society offers suggestions on when conversations about prostate cancer screening should begin as a general rule. But if you do experience any of these symptoms, you should talk with your doctor right away: 

  • Back pain 

  • Blood in your urine 

  • Changes in your urine flow or frequency 

  • Pain while urinating  

  • Pelvic pain 

When no symptoms are present, you should talk with your doctor about prostate cancer screening at: 

  • Age 40 for men at high risk (family history of prostate cancer, especially more than one close relative)  

  • Age 45 for other high-risk men (African Americans or those with one close relative with prostate cancer) 

  • Age 50 for men at average risk 

Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Roker shared that his cancer, though aggressive, was detected in an early stage. He will undergo a prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate gland) as treatment.

If you’re diagnosed, your treatment type will depend on how advanced or aggressive your prostate cancer is. According to the American Cancer Society, treatment may include a combination of approaches, including:

  • Chemotherapy

  • Cryotherapy

  • Hormone therapy

  • Immunotherapy

  • Observation/active monitoring

  • Radiation

  • Surgery

  • Targeted therapy

Prostate removal has been shown to improve the outcomes in prostate cancer cases. Roker is optimistic about his treatment and recovery: "I don't want people thinking, 'Oh, poor Al,' you know, because I'm gonna be OK," he said.

It’s Safe to Get the Care You Need

Many of us have put off routine health checks and regular doctor visits in recent months. But now, it’s time to get back on track. Early detection of cancer can save your life.  

Rest assured we’re taking extraordinary measures to protect you during your in-person health care appointments, including: 

  • Isolating symptomatic COVID-19 patients  

  • Limiting visitors in many areas 

  • Performing temperature checks on all staff and visitors 

  • Practicing social distancing 

  • Wearing masks at all times 

We’re Ready When You’re Ready 

Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening and take charge of your health today. If you’re in need of a primary care doctor, it’s the perfect time to find one near you. 

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