Austin doctor urges men to prioritize health during Men's Health Month

June is Men's Health Month, which is an opportunity to remind men to prioritize their health, raise awareness about preventable health conditions and the importance of routine medical checkups.

Dr. LeRoy Jones, a urologist with St. David's South Austin Medical Center, joined FOX 7 Austin's Rebecca Thomas to discuss.

REBECCA: Dr. Jones, why is it so important that men of any age not skip their annual physicals? And, what do those normally entail?

DR. JONES: Well, a lot of it really depends on the age of the individual. You know, guys aren't really used to going to the physician. For women, it's very different. I mean, they start at a very young age. And, so guys typically will neglect going really for a number of years unless something is different. The two things I want to focus on during Men's Health Month is testicular cancer, which is sort of in that age 15 to 35 age range, and then also prostate cancer. So, prostate cancers much older – so, age 45 on up to you know 65, 70, 75. And, so those are the two groups I think that it's important. Certainly, above age 45, you should be going every year. You know, 15 through the 30s, probably not so much every year. But, that's where self-screening exams are important, self-examination.

REBECCA: And, speaking of prostate cancer, what are the symptoms and the most effective diagnostic tools?

DR. JONES: Sure. Well, prostate cancer is something that's very common. People don't realize it's as common as breast cancer is in women. So, one out of eight men can be affected by prostate cancer. But, unlike most cancers, most people don't have any symptoms, so they feel fine. In fact, when you tell somebody they've been diagnosed with prostate cancer, they're shocked - because most people, when you think about cancer, you know, you're losing weight, you feel bad, you're tired, that kind of stuff. Whereas prostate cancer, it's certainly very different. So, there's really not many symptoms. When we start screening for prostate cancer – and, again, a lot of it depends on the risk factors. So, ethnicity is important. It's more common in African-American males, if you have somebody in the family, a first degree relative that’s had prostate cancer, you're at higher risk - higher than that one out of eight. And, so usually the exam is a physical exam. We usually check the prostate. I know most guys don't want to hear about that. But, then also, we do a blood test called the PSA. PSA stands for prostate specific antigen. It's been around for a long time. And, that's really sort of the main screening tool that we use. It's important to understand with PSA is that it's a number of exams over the years. It's not one data point. And, so, if you're following somebody for five, seven years, you can see if there's a change in the trend. And, then that may lead you to work up somebody for prostate cancer.


REBECCA: And, what is that baseline age to get that test – so, that you can view it over the years.

DR. JONES: Sure. So, with high risk, a positive family history, African-American males probably starting at age 45. But, for the general, you know, no risk factors per se, probably age 50 is when they should go in and be checked and get a baseline blood test, and, just kind of check basic, urinary symptoms and other urological issues that may come up.

REBECCA: Now, a recent study out of the UK suggests for men with the highest genetic risk of prostate cancer, an at-home saliva test is more reliable at detecting cancer than a PSA test. Could we see something like that in the US?

DR. JONES: Yeah, it's an interesting study. I mean, I believe it's called "Bar Code." And, so, and really - it evaluates DNA just like a barcode. And, you know, we may see something like here in the US. The study just looked at high risk, population, high risk factors. And, so certainly, in that group - you look early, you're trying to diagnose it early. But, I think it's important to remember not all prostate cancer is created equal. So, some are aggressive, some are not very aggressive. When we undergo, or when a guy undergoes evaluation with a biopsy, we get a tissue type. And that really tells us what the recommendations will be. So, some patients we do what's called active surveillance where we just watch them. There's some patients that may need more definitive treatment, be that surgery or radiation therapy. And, then there's also localized treatment where we can focus on specific areas in the prostate, called high intensity frequency ultrasound. So, there are a lot of different options. A lot of it just depends on the type of cancer that they have.

REBECCA: Right. When it comes to men's health, is there anything else you'd like to impress on our male viewers?

DR. JONES: Well, I think it's important to be aware of your health. Be aware of changes in your body, how you feel. It's also important to be aware of your diet, trying to get enough rest at night and exercise. And, I think if any of these things change, then that may prompt a visit to see your urologist. But, again, June is Men's Health Awareness – and, that's the time to focus in on yourself a little bit more.

REBECCA: All right, Dr. LeRoy Jones with St. David's Medical Center South Austin. Thank you so much for sharing your time and your expertise with us tonight.