Listen up men. There is a great new tool now available to help you better understand your risk of having prostate cancer.
Check out this simple to use risk calculator, created by the University of Texas Health Sciences Center. It takes only a few minutes to use and gives you your risk for low-grade prostate cancer (which may never require treatment), high-grade prostate cancer and your likelihood of not having cancer at all.
What I really like about this calculator is that it uses smiley faces (or not so smiley depending on the risk of cancer) that puts your numeric risk percentage into a visual perspective.
What I don’t like about the calculator is that it unfortunately doesn’t allow men under the age of 55 to calculate their risk. Men under 55 get prostate cancer and there are certain risk factors that make screening less than 55 important (i.e. family history of prostate cancer, African American, genetic syndromes, etc.)
What Do You Do With This Information?
Once you know your risks you will be much better informed for having a discussion with your doctors about whether or not you should consider getting a biopsy of your prostate.
The vast majority of men with a diagnosis of prostate cancer (especially those with low-grade prostate cancer) will never die of their cancer. This is why there is so much controversy about whether men even need to be screened with the PSA blood test and digital rectal exam. After all, if most prostate cancers are not likely to cause men any health problems why bother screening.
Most oncologists are in agreement that for men with a life expectancy of at least 10 years they should consider screening for prostate cancer. We see far too many men with high-grade and advanced prostate cancers that are already negatively impacting their lives (i.e. painful bone metastases, urinary obstruction or bleeding, etc.) and putting them at risk of dying from their cancer. Detecting these ‘bad boys’ early before the cancer has spread is why it’s worth it to me to consider screening. This is a discussion you need to have with your physicians as there are a lot of important issues that need to be addressed (i.e. side effects of screening, diagnostic studies, biopsies, treatments, costs, etc.)
What Is The Science Behind This Risk Calculator?
The risk calculator is based on data from the 18,882-man National Cancer Institute’s Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT.) This calculator also incorporates data from a study, called San Antonio Center of Biomarkers Of Risk for Prostate Cancer (SABOR) about the blood test called “percent-free PSA.”
For Men Already Diagnosed With Prostate Cancer:
If you’ve already been diagnosed with prostate cancer you’ll want to know what your prognosis is after treatment (i.e. radiation therapy, surgery, anti-hormonal therapy.) The best calculators I’ve come across are from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.