June is Men’s Health Month, so there’s no better time for men to start taking their health into their own hands
June is Men’s Health Month, which means there’s no better time to talk about how men can protect themselves against cancer. Studies have shown that on average, men have a one-in-two chance of developing cancer over their lifetime, compared to a one-in-three chance for women. Men also tend to be more reluctant to visit the doctor, less comfortable talking about health issues, or simply unsure where to find relevant information on men’s health.
Making the decision to undergo cancer screening can be intimidating because, let’s face it: cancer is scary. But knowing the facts is critical to understanding and managing your risk — and can help you better work with your healthcare provider to make the most informed screening and treatment decisions, should you ever be diagnosed. That’s why we asked our partners at Exact Sciences, a company on the cutting edge of early cancer detection and cancer testing, to help us compile the most important things every man should know about cancer:
About 1 in 9 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
That number sounds pretty intimidating, but there is some good news — even for men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, immediate treatment isn’t always necessary. Unlike other common cancers, such as liver, pancreatic or skin, prostate cancer often grows very slowly. So for men with low-risk prostate cancer (meaning their cancer is localized to the prostate gland or grows slowly), a doctor may recommend something called “active surveillance.” In the phase, a doctor will closely monitor tumor growth rather than immediately suggesting a more aggressive treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy. Prostate surgery can lead to life-altering side effects such as impotence or incontinence, and active surveillance has the potential to delay, or in some cases, avoid surgery or radiation therapy altogether. Men with prostate cancer should consult with their doctor on the best treatment option for their specific situation.
Breast cancer affects men, too.
Everyone, regardless of gender, is born with a small amount of breast tissue under the nipple and areola. While men have significantly less of this tissue than women, they too can develop breast cancer (although it’s rare). It’s estimated that more than 2,500 men will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in the U.S. in 2021. That’s why it’s important that men pay attention to any noticeable changes, such as a lump or nipple abnormalities, in the breast area and consult their doctor if anything seems unusual.
Proactive cancer screening can help catch cancer sooner.
For cancers that commonly affect men, such as colorectal cancer, early detection is critical and can increase the likelihood of successful treatment. Depending on your personal risk and your healthcare provider’s recommendation, less-invasive screening options than the traditional colonoscopy may be available. For example, Cologuard® is a non-invasive, at-home, effective and convenient screening test for people at average risk of colorectal cancer that doesn’t require special prep, time off from work, or changes in diet or medication. A clinical study in 10,000 average risk individuals showed that Cologuard detected more than 92% of colon cancers.*
It’s critical to know how risk factors such as age, race, family history, lifestyle choices, and associated health conditions can impact the time frame when men should start getting screened for various types of cancers. And it’s important to note that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently lowered the colorectal cancer screening age to 45 for men and women. If you’re a man over the age of 45 and this is the first time you’re hearing about colorectal cancer screening, get in touch with your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss the screening options available.
If you face a cancer diagnosis, personalized tests may be able to determine the best treatment option.
Precision medicine involves tailoring treatment to your specific disease. If you’re diagnosed with cancer, personalized genomic tests may be available to help you and your healthcare provider make more informed treatment decisions. These tests can provide additional information about the genomic makeup of your tumor, which may make it possible to identify the optimal treatment — and avoid over- or under-treatment.
Genomic tests for early-stage or advanced-stage prostate, colon, and other cancers include:
- The Oncotype DX Genomic Prostate Score® Test, which can help healthcare providers determine whether immediate treatment or active surveillance is necessary for men with certain types of prostate cancer that hasn’t spread.
- The Oncotype MAP™ Pan-Cancer Tissue Test, which provides comprehensive tumor profiling for advanced, metastatic, refractory (resistant to treatment) or recurrent cancer, including prostate, lung and colorectal cancers – the three most common cancers in men.
- The Oncotype DX Colon Recurrence Score® Test, which can help quantify the risk of recurrence in people with stage II and stage III A/B colon cancers to inform treatment decisions that best fit their unique situation.
- The Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® Test, which can help men diagnosed with early-stage HR+, HER2-negative invasive breast cancer determine if they’ll benefit from chemotherapy, as well as the risk that their cancer will recur following therapy.
You (and your family) are not alone.
Almost everyone knows someone affected by cancer. It’s also no secret that cancer can impact the mental and emotional health and well-being of those dealing with cancer, as well as that of their families and caregivers.
While mental health can be a difficult topic to discuss, many supportive communities and resources are dedicated to providing useful information for men and women fighting cancer and their loved ones, such as:
- MaleCare: America’s leading men’s cancer survivor support and advocacy organization, committed to making health services available, understandable, and sustainable
- CancerCare: The leading national organization providing free, professional support services and information to help men and women manage the emotional, practical, and financial challenges of cancer
- ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer: Has a mission to end prostate cancer and offers comprehensive support for men and families with the disease
- Fight Colorectal Cancer: Advocates for people with colorectal cancer and their support networks through informed support, policy change, and research
* Imperiale TF, Ransohoff DF, Itzkowitz SH, et al. Multitarget stool DNA testing for colorectal-cancer screening. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(14):1287-1297.