ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The longest-serving state senate president in U.S. history told his colleagues on Thursday he is battling prostate cancer.
It turns out Maryland state senator Thomas V. Mike Miller is in a very large club.
One in nine men can expect a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes making the risk of getting the cancer similar to the rate of breast cancer in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
Miller’s case has been described as “aggressive” and “advanced” by sources close to the senator.
Prostate Cancer is serious and potentially fatal, but early detection is key to a good outcome.
According to the American Cancer Society: “Prostate cancer can be a serious disease, but most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it. In fact, more than 2.9 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today.”
Even so, many men are unaware of the need for routine screening as early as age 40.
“I‘ve had men say they don’t even know what a prostate is,” said Maryland illustration artist Harry Campbell who is currently living with the disease.
Campbell said he’s talked with men who have avoided annual physicals including prostate screening because of the invasive physical exam.
“They’d rather not even deal with it,” Campbell said noting the prostate is key to sexual function and can affect urination.
However, a simple blood test called the PSA is the most common way to screen for prostate cancer.
The PSA level, and changes in values over time are important first indicators for doctors to detect the cancer.
As a result, routine PSA testing is important for doctors to see changes in results over time.
As a cancer survivor, Campbell urges other men to ask questions when discussing PSA results with their doctors.
One important question is “velocity”, which is the change in PSA values over time. High velocity can be a concern.
According to the US Preventative Services Task Force, the decision to have PSA screening should be an individual one.
"Before deciding whether to be screened, men should have an opportunity to discuss the potential health benefits and harms of screening with their clinician...", states a USPSTF recommendation.
The task force warns that PSA testing can be linked to false-positive results that can result in unnessecary biopsy proceedures and "overdiagnosis".