The band Earth Wind and Fire pose in their bellbottoms and hold up a single finger to remind men to get their prostates checked.

September, Say Do You Remember?

September is tremendously important and not just because it’s the title of perhaps the best song ever recorded by the magisterial Earth Wind and Fire. Yes, I know others will argue for Boogie Wonderland, but September suits my purpose right now.

For those who don’t know, September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Eyes glaze over, man keeps scrolling. Wait, not so fast...

What do you know about prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men in the U.S. Nearly one in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their life and around 175,000 will discover this year that their body has become home to an extremely Unwelcome Guest.

According to the US Urology Care Foundation, most men can’t locate their prostate, don’t know what it’s for and to many, owning a prostate at all comes as a complete surprise.1

You mean I have a prostate, what does it do? Well let’s put it this way, if you didn’t have one then procreation would prove a little tricky. The prostate makes a fluid, which forms one of the main components of semen. Unfortunately, androgens, the male sex hormone stimulates prostate cancer.

Thinking back to my diagnosis

When I was first diagnosed at the age of 62, I told the doctor in a rather affronted voice what bad luck it was that I’d been diagnosed so young.

The doctor smiled and gave me that kindly look doctors reserve for children and profoundly ill-informed adults.

I suppose if I’m being really picky, I was unlucky as the average age of diagnosis in the US is 66, but from the age of 59 incidences of prostate cancer rise exponentially.

But let’s be cheerful because according to the American Cancer Society most men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer don’t die from it. They cite the figure that nearly 3 million men in the US who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive.2

Know the signs and get tested

I remember telling the same doctor mentioned above that there was no history of cancer in my family, but both my parents had died young from heart disease and as my blood pressure has always been high, I’d assumed that heart failure or a stroke would be my undoing rather than cancer. To which the doctor replied ‘Jim, don’t worry, you’re still far more likely to die from a heart attack.’ Such a comfort doctor.

But the key here, as with all cancer is to catch it early, preferably before it spreads. Unfortunately, prostate cancer is stealthy and often doesn’t display any symptoms. Luckily, (if anything about cancer can be called lucky) I found blood in my urine which indicated something was up. Thereafter the thing that was up was a doctor’s finger inserted into my rectum which found a lump that a biopsy confirmed was cancer.

September is a time for awareness

Now I should point out that in the UK there is no general screening of the population for prostate cancer as there is say for bowel cancer. This is because the PSA test, which is used to check for prostate cancer, is notoriously inaccurate. One report suggests that if a thousand men are screened, around 240 will be told their PSA level is high enough to suggest cancer might be present, but once a biopsy is undertaken more than 140 will be told the test had produced a false positive and there was no evidence of cancer3.

But let’s make this simple, if you are approaching middle-age, and I’ll let you decide what age that might be, then go have a digital rectal exam, and then if necessary, a PSA test, a moment’s indignity could save your life.

And when you’re told you don’t have prostate cancer put on EWF’s September at high volume and dance around the room, but remember to tell other men, who might not be so lucky, why September is so important.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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