San Antonio urologist Johnny Reyna, MD, talks about about what men and the women who love them need to know about a sometimes stealthy disease: prostate cancer.
Rigby: Dr. Reyna, what is the prostate gland and what does it do?
Reyna: The prostate gland is a little organ right underneath the bladder. When we’re younger, it’s responsible for the production of semen. Other than that, the prostate really is not much of anything and that’s why we can so easily get rid of it and it not have any serious consequence.
How big is it?
It generally starts out about the size of a walnut as an adult. And then it can get about as big as a cantaloupe, to be quite honest. Or it can, you know, stay the same size. So it really varies in its size.
Who is the most susceptible to prostate cancer?
Certainly the most susceptible person is the person that has a family history of prostate cancer. If you have a single person, a father or a brother, the numbers are such that, you know, a rather significant number. You go up by about 30 percent. If there’s two, the numbers go way up. So that if there’s three direct family members, you have about a 90-plus percent chance of getting prostate cancer.
Are there any symptoms?
It’s called the silent killer. That’s the bad thing about prostate cancer. It really doesn’t give any symptoms. And people say ‘I can’t have cancer. I’m not having any problems.’ That’s the issue, you know. That’s why we have to screen for it. Later on, as it gets bigger, it might cause some urinary symptoms. As it gets meaner, it might cause metastatic pain, various things like that.
What is the testing protocol right now and how has that changed over the years?
PSA is a blood test that’s drawn. It is the antonym for prostate specific antigen. Basically, it’s a protein that’s made in the prostate. There is a so-called normal range. And then when you’re out of that range it’s considered an abnormal range.
Now for awhile digital rectal exams sort of fell out of favor. But what is the current recommendation on that?
Well, the current recommendation is that it be done along with the PSA – that both tests be done.
The reason to try and get prostate cancer early is that if it doesn’t spread beyond the gland itself, you have a better chance at long term survival.
When we find prostate cancer early, it’s almost universally curable. I mean, almost 100 percent. So there is no reason not to find it early, I mean, gosh.
Tell me about the Los Padres Foundation.
Los Padres is something very special to me. My wife and I started Los Padres about five years ago. The whole idea of Los Padres is kind of like Susan B. Komen, to bring awareness to the whole idea of prostate cancer. We do free screenings. We do a number of different things to try and get people as aware as our sisters are of breast cancer. We partner with a national organization called Zero. And Zero does about 40 events across the United States. They’re usually runs. And we’ve been in this now with them for about five years. And we’ve now moved up to the third biggest run in the country. And we do this once a year. This year it’ll be September 17th at the Mission County Park Pavilion. And we do a 10K, a 5K, and we do a one mile fun walk and we do a Dash for Dads with the kids. And we put capes on them instead of t-shirts and it’s a lot of fun. It’s a big family event.
Why is this a passion of yours?
It’s with me all the time. I see it all the time. I’ve seen some of my best friends, my relatives, guys I went to school with. I mean, I’m operating on guys that are younger than me and that really bothers me. That really bothers me. I really feel that this is one of those diseases that if we find it early, nobody should die. That’s why zero is a big number. If we find it early, nobody should die of this disease. We’re still losing close to over 29,000 men a year to prostate cancer. That just means somebody is not getting tested. Somebody’s not being examined.
Well, you bring us a lot of hope. Dr. Reyna, thank you so much for being here.
Oh, it’s been my pleasure, Wendy. Thank you.