COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – As pastor of New Life Ministries in Coconut Creek, Curtis Miller puts his faith in God, but when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007 he put his trust in modern medicine.
“From then on I’ve been getting regular testing and treatment,” Miller said.
Age, family history and race are all risk factors for prostate cancer, which occurs about 60% more often in African American men than in white men and when diagnosed in this population, it’s more likely to be advanced.
“Prostate cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among all cancers in men and it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Mehmet Hepgur, a hematologist-oncologist with Broward Health North.
Hepgur said screening for levels of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, can help detect prostate cancer early along with a digital prostate exam.
“We basically have certain PSA levels we follow. If the levels are less than 1, we screen patients every 2 to 4 years. When it’s between 2 to 4 more frequently, and if the PSA is between 4 and 10, we may send them for a biopsy. If it’s above 10 obviously we are more worried about prostate cancer,” Hepgur said.
What’s disconcerting to Hepgur is that prostate cancer diagnoses are down 18% at Broward Health North alone, which he attributes to patients not coming in for routine exams, either due to fear of COVID-19 because patients have lost their jobs and have less access to insurance.
“Unfortunately if the prostate cancer is left undiagnosed, it can lead to metastasis which is the spread of the cancer and can increase the chance of deaths,” he said.
For the past 13 years Miller has been under regular treatment, starting with radiation and continuing with ongoing chemotherapy in the hopes of extending his life as the disease has spread.
“If you’re at risk my advice is to go get treated and checked and at whatever age your doctor recommends,” he said.
While genetic risk factors can’t be controlled, there are behavior modifications that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer including diet, exercise and losing weight.