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HEALTH REPORT - Prostate Cancer / Powell - 2003-12-23

Broadcast: December 24, 2003

This is Phoebe Zimmermann with the VOA Special English Health Report.

Last week, American Secretary of State Colin Powell had an operation to remove his prostate gland. Doctors had found prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers among men in Western nations. The operation lasted two hours. Mister Powell is sixty-six years old. A spokesman said doctors expected a full recovery.

The prostate is part of the male reproduction system. It is a small gland below the bladder. Cancer of the prostate usually develops after the age of fifty. The disease can kill if it spreads. But it can be cured if discovered early.

Doctors can do a blood test to find prostate cancer. The test measures the amount of a protein called prostate-specific antigen, or PSA. An injured or diseased prostate lets PSA into the blood. The more PSA that is found, the greater the chance that a man has prostate cancer. If a man has a high PSA level, a doctor will remove small pieces of the prostate and examine them.

Men with early prostate cancer have some choices. One is an operation to remove the gland. Another is radiation treatment. Experts say radiation is a good choice for men who are too old or weak for the operation.

Both treatments are considered the most effective interventions for early prostate cancer. However, they can affect a man in other ways. They can make him unable to perform sexually. Another possible effect is a loss of control over the release of urine from the bladder.

Doctors say some men with early prostate cancer do not need any immediate treatment. They suggest this for old men or those with other serious health problems. Prostate cancer generally grows slowly. Treatment can be started later if the cancer is found to be growing.

Prostate cancer that has spread can be treated with anti-cancer drugs or hormones. Prostate cancers grow in the presence of testosterone. Doctors say drugs that block this hormone seem to shrink the cancers.

About ninety percent of men with prostate cancer survive at least five years. The World Health Organization says prostate cancer is strongly related to Western living, where diets are too high in fat. But the W-H-O also says black men appear at greater risk that whites, and white men at greater risk than Asians.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Phoebe Zimmermann.