September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. One in seven men will get the disease, which can be deadly. It’s an issue a lot of men aren’t comfortable talking about, and that’s a big part of the problem. All this month, Brett and James will be talking about it. They’ll bring you stories from midstaters fighting prostate cancer, and surviving.
Neil Baksh takes great pride in his health. He exercises, and eats all the right foods. That’s why what his doctor had to say came as such a shock.
“He said you have cancer.” Prostate cancer.
“When I told my son initially, he said ‘oh gosh dad, are you going to die?’,” Baksh said, “At the time, he was 17-years-old and I said, ‘nah, this is just a little thing, you know, we’ll get through this.’”
Baksh was diagnosed about a year ago in his mid 50’s.
“People have developed this attitude that only older men die of prostate cancer, but if you look at statistics across PA, we see a majority of men in their 50s and 60s now being diagnosed with prostate cancer and younger men dying from the disease,” said Dr. Scott Owens.
Dr. Owens is a urologist based in Camp Hill. He says one of the biggest problems with prostate cancer is that you could have it and not even feel sick.
“Majority of the cancers early on don’t produce a lot of symptoms,” he said, “If you look at the prostate gland, in the center part is where the urinary tract can be squeezed. Prostate cancer, 70% of it occurs on the peripheral on the outside so the cancer can grow, but it won’t cause symptoms.”
Without being treated, prostate cancer could spread. It is the second leading cause of male cancer deaths. That’s why it’s so important for men to get screened through either a prostate exam or a blood test.
“If we pick the cancer up early, we can pick it up at a stage where it is very treatable, it’s curable,” said Owens.
“When you found out there is a problem, attack it,” said Baksh, “It’s not going to go away if you cry, it’s not going to go away if you say, ‘why me?’, it’s not going to go away if you tell your family. Nobody can take it away. You have to deal with it.”
But men aren’t dealing with it.
“Women know that they need to pursue mammography for breast cancer,” said Dr. Owens, “You can’t find one woman on the planet who doesn’t think she needs a mammography.”
Men need to do the same when it comes to their health.
“It comes down to attitude, right?,” said Baksh, “I never thought I would have it. Ok it’s here, let’s deal with this. Let’s take it on.”
With that attitude, Neil is now cancer-free and living life to the fullest. He hopes other men won’t take theirs for granted.
“The best thing anyone can do is get screened,” said Baksh, “Screen, screen, screen. Regardless of your fear, you have to know what’s going on in your body.”
The typical age to start getting tested for prostate cancer is 45. It’s 40 if you have a family history or are African-American. Black men are twice as likely to get and die of prostate cancer.