GLENDALE, AZ — Prostate cancer is something men don't like to talk about, much less get tested for.
September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and doctors say there's no better time than now, especially for African American men, to get screened, as it could save your life.
The prostate is a gland located below the bladder, and plays a key role in sexual function. To check for it, doctors have to insert a finger up the backside to feel for nodules on the gland -- uncomfortable, for sure, but doctors it's say critically important.
In fact, besides skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men.
More than 33,000 will die from it this year, including about 760 here in Phoenix.
Dr. Durado Brooks is Vice President of Prevention and Early Detection for the American Cancer Society and says there are subtle symptoms to look out for.
"Blood in the urine," Brooks said. "A man should immediately go to the doctor and get checked out," he said. "Also, new bone pain."
Especially Brooks said to specifically look out for pain in the hips and back.
High-risk groups for prostate cancer include African American men, smokers, people who are obese, firefighters (because of the chemicals they're around), and it's also genetic. Doctors have even found a link to prostate cancer in men who have women in the family with certain types of breast cancer.
But Dr. Brooks says it doesn't have to be a death sentence.
"There's a common saying in the prostate cancer treatment community, that, 'more men die with prostate cancer than from prostate cancer.'"
That's why catching it early, he says, is key.
Most men should get screened at age 50, African American men at 45, or sooner. Doctors say ask your doctor about a PSA blood test.
"In my case... I'm a 20-year prostate cancer survivor," said Fred Taylor.
Taylor is not only a survivor, but also Director of the Southwest Prostate Cancer Foundation.
"Believe it or not, my wife was teasing me, she said 'Oh, Mr. Prostate Cancer, you have fallen victim.' She made a joke out of it, and it kind of snapped me out of the doldrums," Taylor said
Taylor says he's fortunate to have caught his early and was treated with what's known as a Seed Implant, a form of radiation therapy.
"The idea is to get tested early, annually," Taylor said. "Not when Halley's Comet comes through, but on an annual basis."
Catching cancer early, he says, will leave you with more treatment options. And some men won't need treatment at all, just what's known as Active Surveillance to make sure it doesn't spread.
But men, Taylor says, have to get out of their own way, and stop being stubborn!
"It's a macho thing... It's a macho thing," he says.
Bottom line: See a doctor and get screened.
Fortunately, most men do not die from prostate cancer if they catch it early. In fact, there are 3.1 million survivors living in the United States.
The Southwest Prostate Cancer Foundation is hosting a free screening event coming up in November at Arrowhead Hospital in Glendale. Check here for more information.