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Prostate cancer tests start with simple PSA screening and physical exam

Hospital news | Thursday, August 18, 2022

Ashtabula County Medical Center welcomes urologist Thomas Walsh, MD, FACS. Dr. Walsh brings 40 years of medical experience to Ashtabula County, after serving most recently at hospitals in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Board certified by the American Board of Urology, and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, he specializes in urologic oncology as well as conditions such as kidney stones, incontinence, and urinary tract infections.

Prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in Ashtabula County. In addition, the county’s mortality rates are higher than the state and more than double the national average. The good news for men is that a blood test and physical examination can aid in early detection. The blood test measures the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA.) Higher levels of PSA may indicate the presence of prostate cancer. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that produces some of the fluid in semen. Prostate cancer usually affects men over the age of 50, but can occur earlier, particularly when there is a family history of the disease.

“Prostate cancer can be addressed more effectively when detected early,” Dr. Walsh said. “We find many cases of prostate cancer during screenings. Symptoms tend to appear late in the disease process. Catching prostate cancer in its earliest stages gives the patient more choices for treatment.”

PSA tests and a physical examination are part of the screening protocol for prostate cancer. Formerly, prostate cancer was often undiscovered until it had spread, and treatment was less effective. Dr. Walsh said it is wise to start PSA testing beginning at age 50 (or 40 if there is a family history of prostate cancer), and follow-up with annual tests until at least ages 70-75.

“By getting your first PSA at age 50, we set a benchmark for your PSA level. We can compare that with annual tests to see if the PSA level remains the same or is increasing,” he said. “It is natural for the PSA level to increase slightly and slowly as we age, but a sudden increase from year-to-year could indicate a problem.”

Dr. Walsh said if cancer is found and still localized to the prostate, there are a variety of treatment options.

“Prostate cancer can sometimes be very aggressive, which means it grows quickly and is likely to spread. Although in some cases, it may have very slow growth. It is not entirely predictable. Once we determine the grade and probable extent of cancer, we can then discuss the treatment options based on the patient’s age, overall health, and personal preferences,” he said.

Dr. Walsh sees patients at The Ashtabula Clinic, 2422 Lake Ave. in Ashtabula. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Walsh, please call 440-997-6970.