(BPT) - The men and women of our armed forces are some of the world's greatest warriors. They are the best equipped to overcome any obstacle. Yet one disease continues to strike American male veterans at an alarming rate, many of whom are in their later years and risk facing a new enemy. That enemy is prostate cancer, which remains the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer. 
While all men are at increasing risk for prostate cancer as they age, the US Veteran Affairs’ Central Cancer Registry estimates that among veterans, prostate cancer is the most common of ALL cancer types, accounting for nearly 30% of all cancer diagnoses.  Researchers have found several factors that might affect a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer including: age, race/ethnicity, geography, family history, and gene changes.  Factors with less clear effect on prostate cancer risk include: diet, obesity, smoking, chemical exposures (such as Agent Orange), as well as other factors. 
Therefore, it is especially important for veterans to become aware of the risks and treatment options for prostate cancer. For our country’s bravest, too often there’s a lack of open communication and understanding about the disease.
“It’s important for men to consider making a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test a part of their annual physical exam, especially if they’re at higher risk to develop prostate cancer,” notes Chuck Strand, CEO of Us TOO International, a nonprofit that provides educational resources and support services to the prostate cancer community at no charge. “For military veterans and other men who have been exposed to certain chemicals, like Agent Orange, it is important for them to speak with their doctors about this exposure, as some studies point to a potential link to the risk of prostate cancer.” 
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can sometimes play a role in preventing some veterans from seeking the education and medical treatment that they may need. A recent study showed that among US military veterans, greater depressive and trauma-related symptoms were associated with greater perceived barriers to prostate cancer screening.  While some veterans may be hesitant to seek support at first, many find that the peer-to-peer interactions with other veterans are an important component of their healing process.
As retired Air Force officer and prostate cancer survivor, Joseph, says, “One of the biggest challenges can be getting a veteran to a support group meeting. But once they’re engaged, it’s amazing to see them open up to other men about some of the most difficult parts of their journeys.”
A sense of commitment to take care of others is a common attribute among veterans; Bob, a Vietnam War veteran and prostate cancer survivor, recognizes this. “As veterans, we have a unique history, and sometimes simply receiving medical information doesn’t necessarily give us the support we need to heal emotionally. That kind of support comes with sharing your experience with other veterans,” says Bob.
For veterans, prostate cancer comes with its own set of battles; however, deeper understanding and engagement among all those in the veteran community provide assurance that they are not alone in their journeys.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a well-worn path between a prostate cancer diagnosis and any 1 or 2 ‘best treatments,’” according to Strand. “Upon being diagnosed, it’s important for a man to take the time he needs to get the facts and talk with doctors and other patients about their experience to help ensure that he makes informed decisions on treatment options and understands all possible side effects.”
For more information and resources for veterans, visit Us TOO at http://www.ustoo.org/military-veterans.
For more information on this topic, visit www.MyProstateCancerRoadmap.com, a website dedicated to providing in-depth information that can help patients have meaningful conversations with their loved ones and healthcare team.
About My Prostate Cancer Roadmap
My Prostate Cancer Roadmap is an educational resource that can help patients, caregivers, and support group leaders navigate through the advanced prostate cancer journey. The section titled “Viewpoints from the Road” provides key perspectives and advice from patients and caregivers who have faced similar challenges. Newly diagnosed patients and interested caregivers can receive up-to-date information and hear personal perspectives from patients, caregivers, and advocates via periodic email updates directly from My Prostate Cancer Roadmap by registering at www.myprostatecancerroadmap.com/register.html.
 American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/about/key-statistics.html. Accessed November 2017.
 Cancer Incidence Among Patients of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Health Care System: 2010 Update. http://militarymedicine.amsus.org/doi/abs/10.7205/MILMED-D-16-00371?journalCode=milmed. Accessed November 2017.
 American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer Risk Factors. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Accessed November 2017.
 American Journal of Men’s Health. Impact of Psychological Distress on Prostate Cancer Screening in U.S. Military Veterans. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1557988313516357#articleCitationDownloadContainer. Accessed November 2017.