Prostate cancer knows no age.
That's the message Family to Family, Americans for Prostate Cancer Awareness and Support are trying to spread about a disease that will kill an estimated 37,900 men this year.
In an attempt to heighten prostate cancer awareness, Family to Family is hosting a prostate cancer symposium Saturday at the Pinon Plaza Hotel Casino, seeking to draw those curious about learning more about the disease.
Prostate cancer has no symptoms so early screening is critical to detecting and fighting it.
It can show up in men of all ages even with no family history. It's a disease that can be detected often with aprostate specific antigen blood test.
Dr. James Cunningham, a local urologist and Family to Family board member, said the symposium will focus prostate cancer education, what the disease is, who it affects, what the treatments are and the effects of some of the treatments.
"The more you can make the public aware of the disease and of the need to come in and be screened the better," Cunningham said. "To get a prostrate exam for a lot of men is not comfortable. It's not something a lot of people want to deal with. The blood test is easy. Some people fear the exam or they fear that they have cancer. Some people don't want to know. But if you catch it early, it's curable. If you catch it late, it's a lot harder to cure.
"The other part besides awareness, is designed to talk about how to help people deal with the emotional side effects that come with being diagnosed."
Nikki Meloskie, director and spokeswoman for Family to Family, spends much of her day manning a prostate cancer hotline in her home, helping people learn more about a disease her husband Bob survived.
"I know what she's dealing with, I've been there," she said to one caller. "If you have those symptoms, you're in trouble. I think you need to come to this symposium."
They call from all over the country, whether they've just discovered they have the disease or are survivors. Meloskie has created a support network to try to reach not only the men affected by the disease, but their families as well.
When Bob was diagnosed, doctors told Meloskie his cancer was none of her business. That experience drove her to become involved in promoting prostate cancer awareness among both men and women.
"This is not a man's disease," she said. "This is a family's disease.
"Prostate cancer isn't the end of your life. Men get scared that this is the end of their manhood. Prostate cancer was in the closet for years because men felt their manhood was threatened. So much has happened to preserve the very thing they're fearing."
The symposium will feature sections on support for families, erectile dysfunction and alternative intimacy for couples.
"They're going to be really candid and not pull any punches," Meloskie said. "It will be a down home, country type of discussion to try and help. We'll try to make them feel that they're not alone.
"Even if they're uncomfortable, they're not alone. That's the thing we need to do: to break up the feeling of isolation and embarrassment they're feeling because there's no reason for it."
The symposium will feature guest speaker Dr. Mack Roach, a well-known radiation oncologist from the University of California, San Francisco. Roach specializes in radiation therapy and will discuss a wide range of topics, including the need for testing of all men during their annual physicals and the evolution of prostate cancer treatments.
The symposium is aimed at all men, their family members, prostate cancer survivors and doctors involved on any level of prostate cancer treatment.
Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel can receive credit for attending the meeting. Cunningham said it would also be a good way for doctors to catch up on the latest on prostate cancer and its treatments.
All men walking through the door will be offered a PSA test, Meloskie said.
The symposium costs $135 for doctors, $115 for nurses and other medical personnel, $75 general admission and $65 for prostate cancer survivors. Each additional person is $25 and lunch in included in the cost. Call 883-7386.
If you go:
What: Prostate Cancer Awareness and Support Symposium
When: Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Where: Pinon Plaza Hotel Casino, 2171 Highway 50 East
To learn more about prostate cancer, call Family to Family, Americans for Prostate Cancer Awareness and Support hotline at (888) 776-2262 or call Nikki Meloskie at 883-2527. Head to the Internet at www.pcafamily.org.