Now that we’re nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, some patients are still hesitant to come into the hospital for annual examinations. This number is especially high in our male population.
"We’re concerned because we’re seeing fewer patients come in for their annual screenings," says Daniel Lee, MD, MS, a urologist at Penn Medicine. "So when we discover prostate and testicular cancers, they’re more advanced than they were or could have been before COVID. The more advanced these cancers are when they are diagnosed, the more difficult they are to treat and have a successful outcome."
It’s very important for men to pay attention to two types of cancer screenings:
- Testicular cancer: Testicular cancer occurs when cancerous cells grow inside the tissues of one or both of the testicles. This type of cancer is most common in men who are age 20 and older.
- Prostate cancer: Prostate cancer occurs when cancerous cells form in the tissues of the prostate. Men who are age 40 with a first degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age are at a higher risk. Men who are age 45 who have African American heritage or a family history of prostate cancer are at an increased risk for prostate cancer as well. And after age 50, all men are at an increased risk for developing prostate cancer.
When Should I Get My Cancer Screenings?
If You're 20 or Older: Testicular Self-Exams Are Recommended
One of the big differences between prostate and testicular cancer is that prostate cancer has a reliable blood test your physician can order for you. There is not a blood test for testicular cancer, but you can easily self-test in the privacy and convenience of your home.
We can’t emphasize this enough: If you feel something unusual, or that doesn’t “feel right,” reach out to your health care provider. This may be uncomfortable to discuss with your doctor, but finding testicular cancer early is the best way to manage and treat it.
To learn more about testicular cancer screening and treatment, visit Testicular Cancer – Abramson Cancer Center.
If You’re 45 and Older: Request a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
There is a simple blood test to determine whether you should be referred to a prostate cancer specialist: the PSA blood test. PSA is a protein produced by normal—as well as cancerous—cells of the prostate gland.
The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood. The blood level of PSA is often elevated in men with prostate cancer. Depending on your age, family history, and race, and if you have a PSA level ranging from 4 to 4.5 and up, you can be referred to a urologist for a follow-up.
If You’re 40 Years Old, Are of African Heritage, and/or Have a Family History: Request a PSA Screening
Two groups of men are at higher risk for being diagnosed with prostate cancer and should be tested beginning at age 40: all men with a family history of prostate cancer and all Black men.
"We know that for Black men, prostate cancer is much more aggressive, and we know the outcomes are worse," explains Dr. Lee. "That’s why we recommend earlier screenings for Black men, regardless of family history."
If you have questions about whether you have an increased cancer risk, your doctor can help you determine whether you should be screened early.
To learn more about prostate cancer screening and treatment, visit Prostate Cancer – Abramson Cancer Center.
"We have the ability to identify those most at risk and advocate for screening and education for all men and at-risk communities in order to prevent more advanced cancer outcomes," says Dr. Lee. "These two simple things, screenings and self-exams, can save lives. Especially for those men who are at an increased risk."
Screenings and Appointments During COVID-19
At Penn Medicine, we continue to provide the safest, high-quality care for patients. COVID-19 screenings are conducted prior to in-person appointments; waiting rooms and all patient care areas are regularly cleaned and disinfected; contact-less check-in and check-out procedures have been implemented; and masks are required for all patients, visitors and staff.
Additionally, there are telemedicine options available for patients who are more comfortable with a virtual appointment with their doctor.
To schedule an appointment with a Penn urologist, please call 215-662-8699 or complete this form.