"Although its mortality rate has steadily fallen in the last decade, prostate cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men in the United States. This year alone, nearly 218,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and more than 32,000 men will die from this disease. National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month gives us the opportunity to renew our commitment to fight this disease by finding better ways to prevent, detect and treat it."

President Barack Obama spoke those words on Tuesday in his proclamation that September 2010 is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The proclamation is a reminder for the men in our communities to make more informed choices about their health.

For instance, while every guy has some level of risk for getting prostate cancer just by being a man, there are a lot of other factors that make some guys more susceptible to prostate cancer than others, according to ZERO, the project to end prostate cancer, which started as the National Prostate Cancer Coalition in 1996 to grow the federal government's investment in prostate cancer research.

ZERO points out the risk factors to be aware of:

"¢ Age: One in every six men gets prostate cancer at some point in his lifetime. Men from 60 to 79 have a 14.76 percent chance (1 in 7). Men from 40 to 59 have a 2.58 percent chance (1 in 39). Men under 40 have a 0.01 percent chance (1 in 9,876). While it is rare for men under 50 to get prostate cancer, those cases tend to be more aggressive.

"¢ Family history: Compared with men who have no family history of the disease, men with a father or brother who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer have more than twice the risk of being diagnosed. Men with two or more relatives have about five times the risk. Men with three or more relatives are almost guaranteed to get prostate cancer.

"¢ Race: Rates of prostate cancer in the United States are 60 percent higher among African-American men, and the mortality rate is two-and-a-half times that of Caucasian men. Studies are being done on potential differences in physiology, diet and access to care.

"¢ Diet and Obesity: The "Western or Cowboy diet," which is high in fat, meat and sugar, and low in fruits, vegetables and fiber may be one of the greatest factors contributing to prostate cancer. Studies suggest a strong relationship between consumption of saturated fat or dairy fat and prostate cancer, while polyunsaturated fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent the disease.

We hope that the men in our community will talk to their doctors about these risk factors, prevention and preventative screenings. Regular screening for early detection of prostate cancer is so important.

The good news is Norwalk Hospital is joining hospitals across the country and offering a free screening on Saturday, Sept. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Whittingham Cancer Center. To register for the screening, call 203-852-2148.

Also in conjunction with Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, the hospital is going to give Fairfield County residents the opportunity to get an up close and personal look at the daVinci Robotic Surgical System at the Health and Wellness Center of Norwalk Hospital at i..Park on Tuesday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at Norwalk Hospital in the main lobby on Wednesday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Health professionals will be available to demonstrate the robot and answer questions about prostate cancer.

Fortunately for men in the area who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, one of the treatments Norwalk Hospital offers is the da Vinci prostatectomy.

Among the benefits to this surgical treatment option are: less post-operative pain and discomfort, faster recovery and return to normal daily routine, reduced blood loss and need for transfusions, equivalent cancer control, earlier return to urinary continence and less risk of infection

The DaVinci robot allows the surgeon to view anatomical structures clearly and perform a precise surgical procedure through small incisions. By using the robotic surgical system, the surgeon operates while seated comfortably at a console viewing a 3-D image of the surgical field. The surgeon's fingers grasp the master controls below the display, with hands and wrists naturally positioned relative to his or her eyes. The system seamlessly translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

"The daVinci Surgical System is a great benefit to our patients because it provides 3-D visualization and greater precision enabling the surgeon to perform complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach," said Jonathan E. Bernie, chief of robotic surgery at Norwalk Hospital, in a statement.

Call the Norwalk Hospital Community Relations Department at 203-852-2250 if you would like to attend either event.

While we are grateful Norwalk Hospital has this technology available for our community, lets help the men in our community make better choices about their health not only in September but 365 days a year so they will never have to deal with the treatment of prostate cancer.

At the very least, get them to register for a free screening this month.

It could save their lives.