One out of every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. The American Cancer Society estimates that 28,660 men in the United States will die of prostate cancer in 2008.
According to Dr. William See, director of Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin Urologic and Prostate Cancer Program and chair of urology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, prostate cancer is almost 100-percent curable, with early detection.
The Midwest Prostate Cancer Detection Foundation was founded to make earlier detection easier. The foundation partnered with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin to provide onsite workplace screenings via the Prostate Onsite Project (POP), a mobile clinic, in the Milwaukee area.
“Froedtert gave us the money to get us started with a positive cash flow and to expand their existing prostate cancer program,” said Bob Novak, president of the foundation. Novak lost a longtime childhood friend to prostate cancer earlier this year.
See volunteers as advisor to the foundation, making sure the men visiting the clinic receive proper care.
“My participation is to ensure that the program that is being offered is being run correctly, and they are using the right pieces of information to make recommendations to the men,” See said. “I am also there to make sure the program is carried out in a way that is a value to both the employers and the men who are being screened.”
According to Novak, the mobile clinic sets up usually in a nearby parking lot of a business for screenings.
“We set up in a parking lot, and then patients come in to the mobile clinic two or three at a time,” Novak said. “We go over the necessary paperwork and then we draw blood for the PSA test (prostate specific antigen), and then they visit the doctor for the DRE, (digital rectal exam).”
The 40-foot mobile clinic has a separate waiting area, spaces for two blood draws, and a space for the doctor to perform the exam. Each exam takes about 15 minutes and then the patient can return to work. The results from the exam are kept private. Only the patient, the examining physician, and if necessary, the patient’s primary physician know the results, Novak said.
The foundation has signed up five businesses for scheduled screenings so far and has begun plans to expand the program outside of Wisconsin to Indiana and Ohio.
“We have a scheduled screening next month at a casino in Indiana, and I have an inquiry to get started in Ohio as well as soon as we get established here,” Novak said.
Milwaukee Area Technical College has November screenings scheduled for each of its four campuses.
“It is bringing health care to the workplace,” said Kathleen Hohl, public relations director for MATC. “If employees don’t have to schedule their own doctors visit or their own exam, if it can be convenient for men it might attract more people. Employee health and wellness is something we take seriously.”
Like most employers who sign up, MATC will subsidize part of the cost for male employees who receive the exam, Hohl said. According to Novak, an exam through the POP mobile clinic costs about $50. To keep fees low and to cover basic costs of medical supplies, Novak suggests companies enroll at least 40 men for their screenings.
MATC has 2,800 employees across its campuses and approximately 1,250 of those employees are male. Money received from employers goes to pay the onsite physician and cover costs of supplies and lab tests. Any additional money left over will stay in Wisconsin and go toward prostate cancer research, Novak said.
“Men are notorious for not wanting to go to the doctor,” See said. “If they don’t feel pain, they figure they must be OK. This is not a disease that you can wait until you have symptoms, so bringing the doctor to them removes some of the barriers they face.”
According to See, prostate cancer does not have symptoms in its early stages, so once symptoms are recognized it might already be in its advanced, incurable stage.
Men age 45 to 50 should receive annual screenings. African-American men or men who have immediate family members with prostate cancer are considered high risk and should start receiving screenings beginning at age 40.
“What we are hoping for with this program, is to provide this kind of service on a continual basis, doing another screening the year after,” said Novak. “It’s important that they are performed on an annual basis, prostate cancer is such a killer, but what men don’t realize is that if you discover the cancer early enough it is beatable.”