PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gov. Tom Wolf says he has prostate cancer. It was found on a routine exam.
“About four out of five early cases are found from the PSA blood test. And about one out of five are found because you felt something abnormal in the prostate on the exam,” explained Allegheny General Hospital urologist Dr. Ralph Miller.
He says it is early stage cancer, suggesting it is contained in the prostate and hasn’t spread.
The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland that sits between the bladder and the penis. It makes seminal fluid. Sixty percent of cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in men older than 65. Average age at diagnosis is 66.
The 67-year-old governor will soon start several months of treatment. This could include surgery to remove the cancer, radiation to the prostate, or freezing the tumor. Surgery would be the most disruptive, requiring a week off. Radiation treatments would be brief and five days a week for eight weeks.
“The length of time would depend on what combination of treatments are being used,” says Dr. Miller.
There are potential risks to treatment.
“Negative effects on the urinary tract or urination, negative effects on sexual function,” Dr. Miller adds.
He will not be getting chemotherapy, or anti-cancer drugs. These aren’t used in early stage disease.
At this point, symptoms would not be prominent. Advanced disease can cause a number of problems.
“It can cause obstruction of the urinary flow, it could cause blood in the urine. If prostate cancer spreads it could cause weight loss, pain in the bone, pain in the back,” says Dr. Miller.
Overall his prognosis is good.
“The cure rate is certainly not 100 percent, but it can certainly approach 90 or better,” said Dr. Miller.
Gov. Wolf urges all men to get regular checkups with their doctor.