Prostate cancer awareness: Much has changed since '89

September 1, 2005

We know the PSA test is not perfect. Nevertheless, we must move forward and continue to raise awareness about prostate cancer.

Held during the third week in September by the Prostate Cancer Education Council, PCAW's mission is to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to encourage early detection and diagnosis so the disease can be found early, when it is potentially curable. This is accomplished through free or low-cost screenings to eligible men at sites throughout the country. When the event was launched 16 years ago (coinciding with the commercial launch of the PSA test), 16,000 men were screened at more than 90 participating centers. Those numbers have increased exponentially, so that millions of men have been screened at more than 500 sites.

Not surprisingly, trends in prostate cancer over the past 16 years among men participating in PCAW have mirrored those of U.S. men overall. In 1989, approximately two-thirds of men with prostate cancer presented with locally advanced or metastatic disease. That number is now less than 10%. While no randomized trials have shown that screening actually translates to decreased mortality, we anxiously await the results of the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial and other large-scale studies for a definitive answer.

Finally, I'm extremely proud that the Prostate Cancer Education Council and other groups have helped to significantly increase the research dollars devoted to prostate cancer. Since 1989, the amount spent on prostate cancer research in 1989 was just $9 million; it is now in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Certainly, more can be done.

Dr. Crawford, is professor of surgery and radiation oncology and head of the section of urologic oncology, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver. He is also chairman of the Prostate Cancer Education Council.