Prostate cancer and early detection

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Prostate cancer is no joke. Every year, it claims the lives of thousands, reminding us of the importance of early detection. Around age 50, it is recommended that men get tested for prostate cancer. Testing and the early detection of the cancer allow for a wide array of treatment options.

The American Cancer Society lists prostate cancer as the most common cancer in men aside for skin cancer. They estimate around 248,530 new cases occurred in 2021 with 34,130 deaths.

Times have changed

Testing has evolved over the years. As a result, the days of rectal examinations are on the way out, with physicians favoring the prostate-specific antigen test. According to the National Cancer Institute, a PSA refers to a specific protein produced by malignant and normal cells found in the prostate. This test measures the level of the antigen present in a blood sample. An elevated PSA level may indicate prostate cancer.

A medical perspective

Dr. Hess has seen a sizable decline in traditional prostate examinations in recent years.

Ben Hess, M.D.

With blood testing gaining popularity, there is almost no reason to ignore the importance of screening. Chief Medical Officer Ben Hess, M.D., is a supporter of PSA testing.

“I very rarely have to do prostate exams. It is no longer recommended for asymptomatic patients. Instead I focus on how and why we use the PSA test instead.” -Dr. Hess

He commented on the hesitancy felt by men when the touchy subject is brought up. Dr. Hess reassures them that old-school rectal examinations are no longer universally recommended. The PSA blood test may be better in most cases.

Symptoms

Screening should begin around age 50 unless a family history of the cancer prompts earlier screening. Symptoms of the cancer are:PSA testing has replaced traditional prostate exams in many instances.

  • Frequent urination
  • Weak urination
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain in the rectum
  • Pain in the lower back

Treatment

This form of cancer can be treated in many ways, including surgery, radiation and cryotherapy. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the chances of dying from prostate cancer are fairly low with a 5-year survival rate of 99%. Most trusted sources point to early detection as the key to beating this cancer.

If you are nearing 50 or have symptoms of prostate cancer, Tri-County Health Care can help. To schedule an appointment, please call 218-631-3510.


Ann’s breast cancer journey: early detection is key

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist

 

One year. That’s how long Ann Immonen has been on her breast cancer journey. It taught her much about her own strength and the strength of family and friends. It also taught her that early detection is key to breast cancer survival.

A picture of Ann with her Coworkers

Ann and her TCHC co-workers.

Late in October 2016, Ann went in for her annual mammogram, utilizing the new 3-D technology at TCHC. Just a year earlier, she had been cleared with a normal mammogram. This one, however, revealed concerning lumps that doctors determined needed further investigation.

Following a diagnostic ultrasound on Oct. 31 and needle-guided biopsy on Nov. 9, the diagnosis came back positive. She had breast cancer.

“Maybe because of my health care background, I really never cried about my diagnosis,” she said. “I was just thankful for the early detection because they have come a long way with breast cancer treatment.”

Then came a choice: to undergo a mastectomy or not. The knowledge of her medical history helped her decide. When Ann’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose a single mastectomy but experienced recurrence in her other breast. So Ann opted for a bilateral mastectomy.

Chemotherapy began the first week of January. Because of debilitating side effects – nausea, fatigue, hair loss – Ann was unable to work, but she is grateful for the amazing cancer care program at TCHC, which allowed her to receive chemo right in her hometown of Wadena.

Though wigs were an option, she chose instead to sport a fantastic array of hats and made sure to be open with her family about the changes.

“I was never uncomfortable not having hair. I loved hats and I wore them well, but I felt I needed to tell my grandchildren,” she said. “One of my grandsons told his mom, ‘Grandma took some medicine, and her hair popped out!’

Breast Cancer - Ann Ringing Bell

Ann ringing the bell after treatment.

“That’s what you do this for at this age,” she added. “You do it for your children and your grandchildren. They were amazing.”

Radiation started in May and continued through June, again causing more side effects. Finally, two weeks after the 25-day radiation treatment, Ann returned to work.

“It was amazing to be back around people again,” she said. “And I have gotten stronger and stronger and stronger.”

She will continue chemotherapy every three weeks through December, but the aggressive part of the medication is over, meaning her energy and her hair have returned.

Ann credits the support of her family, friends, church members and coworkers with keeping her spirits high.

“Faith, family and friends with a positive attitude can get you through anything,” Ann said. “That’s my motto.”

As she reflects on the past year and looks forward to the end of treatment, Ann’s message to other women is that screenings matter.

“The biggest thing is early detection,” she said. “It’s amazing how when you sit at a table with maybe six ladies, three have had biopsies and two of us were positive. It happens to people every day, but the biggest thing I can say is early detection.”

 

Ann with her Family at the Relay for Life.

About Ann: Ann Immonen and her husband, Eldon, live in Wadena and have two daughters and two grandchildren. She began working at Tri-County Hospital 39 years ago as an LPN. Over the years, she has worn different hats within Tri-County. Following a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis about five years ago, she transitioned to a part-time float nurse position in the Wadena Clinic.