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September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remind men to take charge of their prostate health this month and throughout the year. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, with more than 183,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

“When it comes to men’s health, prostate cancer screening should be a top priority,” said Sanjeev Sharma, MD, a board certified radiation oncologist at St. Mary’s Medical Center. “September is a great time to think about prostate health, but men should be aware of this disease and understand how to prevent it and treat it effectively all year.”

Prostate cancer can be treated with surgery or radiation, with five-year survival rates at nearly 100 percent. But radiation can often cause unwanted side effects. Now, patients have an option available to help reduce the risk of potential side effects: a spacer that can be placed to reduce the rectum’s exposure to radiation, which helps to maintain rectal function. Mountain Health offers this pre-treatment option, called SpaceOAR™ Hydrogel. SpaceOAR is the first and only FDA-cleared spacer to help reduce the radiation dose delivered to the rectum, potentially reducing complications and helping to maintain quality of life.

SpaceOAR is an absorbable gel inserted via a minimally invasive procedure that creates a temporary space between the prostate and the rectum, helping to reduce the radiation dose to the rectum during prostate cancer treatment. With SpaceOAR in place, a doctor can complement the patient’s radiation treatment to better target their cancer while preserving healthy tissue. The hydrogel spacer remains in place for about three months. After about six months, the hydrogel is naturally absorbed and cleared from the body in the patient’s urine. To date, more than 50,000 patients worldwide have been successfully treated with SpaceOAR.

“We strive to offer the best prostate cancer treatments available and products like SpaceOAR allow us to do just that,” Dr. Sharma said.

“This option can help patients who choose radiation treatments to maintain the quality of life they had before the diagnosis.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that men discuss whether to be screened for prostate cancer with their health care provider beginning at:

• Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years

• Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer, including African Americans and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65)

• Age 40 for men at even higher risk, or those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age

For more information about St. Mary’s Regional Cancer Center visit www.st-marys.org or call 304.526.1349.

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