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(photo credit: GPO)
A few weeks after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the nation he has prostate cancer, urologists from Assaf Harofeh and Shaare Zedek Medical Centers invited all male MKs and Knesset staffers for an exam to check for tumors.
One hundred men underwent a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a rectal exam, and although the results of the blood tests were not immediately ready, two to four of the rectal examinations produced suspicion of a problem; those will be sent for more tests.
Prof. Arie Lindner, chief of urology at Assaf Harofeh in Tzrifin and head of scientific council of the Israel Medical Association and Dr. Moshe Zilberman, deputy head of urology at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek, examined the men in the Knesset clinic over the course of several hours.
Prostate cancer is contracted by one in six men in Israel, although some of them will die of other causes without it being diagnosed. Although the PSA test is not 100 percent accurate, combined with a rectal examination it can lead to early diagnosis of a tumor and successful surgery - as in Olmert's case - and or chemotherapy and radiation.
The first-ever screening in the Knesset was initiated by the parliament's official physician, Dr. Yitzhak Lifschitz, who had thought of it two or three years ago, but it never panned out. The much-publicized condition of the prime minister aroused much interest among the MKs and staffers aged 40 and above. "Some of them were quite anxious," Lindner told The Jerusalem Post.
"We did this campaign to raise awareness of prostate cancer among the male public," he said. "The disease is developing epidemic proportions," he said, given the growing life expectancy and lifelong exposure to the male hormone testosterone, which is blamed as the main culprit for the disease - in addition to a fatty diet and genetic factors.
"It can be treated and cured," he said. Olmert's doctors, who said his prostate cancer is in a "microscopic stage," maintain that his chances of a cure by surgery in a few months are around 95%.
Those who came to the Knesset clinic for an examination received booklets from the Israel Cancer Association. Lindner said men over 50 should undergo a PSA test and rectal exam every year. "If such screening is organized annually in the Knesset, I would be happy to devote a workday to it."
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