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Lewis Woodward's family has a history of prostate cancer.
That meant he was at higher risk of getting it, and he did not beat the odds. But the Modestan has lived a productive life since being diagnosed in 1993, at age 64.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting men in the United States. Woodward, a retired Modesto Junior College music instructor, said prostate cancer also struck three of his brothers.
"Prostate cancer is the most treatable form of cancer," said Woodward, who was advised to have immediate treatment.
He elected to have his prostate removed. Because the cancer had spread outside the gland, he has tests done three times a year to ensure the disease is under control.
Today, Woodward is co-leader of Us Too Modesto, one of more than 300 chapters of a nationwide organization called Us Too Prostate Cancer Education & Support. Its mission extends beyond support to touting the benefits of exams that can detect the cancer.
The support group's eighth annual Conference on Prostate Cancer is set for Sept. 26.
The cancer begins with a small bump on the gland. The cancer tends to grow slowly and usually causes no symptoms until the advanced stages of the disease. The cancer can spread rapidly in younger men.
Risk factors include race
The disease is most prevalent in older men, with risk factors including poor diet, obesity, physical inactivity and smoking.
Race also is considered a risk factor. Black men are 50 percent more likely to develop the disease than white men. The disease rates are lower among Latinos and Asian-Pacific Islanders.
California recorded 20,115 new cases and 2,900 deaths from prostate cancer last year. Stanislaus County recorded 185 new cases and 40 deaths in 2004.
A blood test called prostate specific antigen, or PSA, and digital rectal exams are used to screen for the disease. Woodward said the test is a good idea for men age 40 and older who are in the highest-risk groups.
According to the Merck Manual of Medical Information, experts disagree about the benefits of screening.
While it can provide early detection, often the slow-moving cancer never results in symptoms or death. Further tests can be expensive and stressful, and treatment can prove more damaging than leaving the cancer alone, the manual states.
In making the diagnosis, tissue samples are examined to determine how malignant the cancer cells appear and how far the cancer has spread.
Different techniques are used in treating the disease, such as surgical removal of the prostate, hormone therapy, conventional radiation treatment and brachytherapy, involving the insertion of radioactive pellets in the prostate.
The procedures have various side effects such as incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Woodward said the support group's monthly meetings are open to men who have prostate cancer, with spouses encouraged to attend because they often serve as caregivers.
One of the support group's strongest messages is that people can live with the disease.
"Most of the men who come to us think they have been handed a death sentence, and that is not true at all," Woodward said.
The Us Too Modesto Prostate Cancer Support Group's regular meetings are at 7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation's Health Education and Conference Center, at the rear of McHenry Village, 1700 McHenry Ave., Modesto.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at 578-2321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conference on prostate cancer
DATE: Sept. 26
TIME: 7 p.m.
PLACE: Sutter Gould Medical Foundations Health Education and Conference Center at the rear of McHenry Village, 1700 McHenry Ave., Modesto
COST: Free and open to the public
Yvonne Bossert, a nurse and research coordinator, Stockton Hematology Oncology
Dr. Steven Mitnick, medical director, Modesto-based Gould Medical Group
Dr. Parminder Sethi, Valley Associated Urology Medical Group, Modesto, Turlock, Oakdale and Manteca
Dr. Peter Sien, radiation oncologist, Prigge Radiation Oncology Center, Modesto
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Call Lewis Woodward at 522-5566 or Jim Sharp at 848-2200.
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