Prostate Cancer Is No Joking Matter

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With a wink and wearing a mischievous smile, my friend “Charley” likes to relate how he learned about his diagnosis of prostate cancer several years ago.

With a wink and wearing a mischievous smile, my friend “Charley” likes to relate how he learned about his diagnosis of prostate cancer several years ago.

“After all my tests had been run, my urologist, solemn faced, came into the exam room and faced me, looking me dead in the eye and said:

“‘Charley, I have good news and some bad news.’”

Charley steeled himself for the worst news possible. It must have felt like eternity before the doctor was seemingly about to reveal the naked truth, though in reality only seconds had passed.

“‘Unfortunately, the bad news is that you’re going to die,’” the specialist said, homing in on my astonished friend.

Then, barely skipping a beat, he added, “But it’s not going to be from prostate cancer.” The urologist broke out into a wide smile. He laughed and Charley laughed. Truth be told, my friend, in total shock just moments before, was completely and unutterably relieved.

Imminent death from prostate cancer, Charley’s worst fear, had been put to rest once and for all. He must have felt, even for a micro-second, that the good doctor had yanked him from the jaws of death.

Then, the doctor quickly got serious and explained that Charley’s cancer had been caught early and with treatment and active surveillance, he should have no worries that it posed a threat to his life. My friend was in his early 60s at the time.

When caught early, prostate cancer, slow moving as it often is, may only entail a routine prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and a visit to the doctor every six months to a year.

The real hero of this story is Charley, who took the time to visit his primary care physician when symptoms of prostate cancer began to appear. Unlike many other men, he did not put it off his screening indefinitely.

Charley even took it to another level after receiving his initial prostate cancer diagnosis from the family doctor. He went to a specialist at a university where he received confirmation from the renowned specialist in prostate cancer who had played the joke on him.

Charley took and continues to take care of himself and does not shy away from making doctors’ appointments when necessary, in all facets of his health care.

Prostate cancer is nothing to shake off, to ignore, or to let slide. The American Cancer Society estimates that 35,000 American men will die of the disease in 2023. Approximately 288,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year.

Like Charley, I closely watched my PSA numbers with my primary care physician. For more than 20 years, with the diagnosis of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), my doctor was fastidious about ordering my annual PSA bloodwork and performing a digital rectal exam as well. When my PSA numbers began to rise, doubling within one year, I was sent to a urologist who found the nodule in my prostate. From there began what is now an eight-and-a-half-year journey with prostate cancer and a blessed remission as of this writing.

Men, don’t wait to get screened. An acquaintance of mine put off even a basic consultation with his doctor, and his PSA numbers had mushroomed into the hundreds when he was diagnosed with late-stage prostate cancer (high normal for a PSA is 4). By the time he started chemotherapy, the cancer had spread deeply into his bones and organs. His oncologists threw everything at they that they could, but the man was in agonizing pain during the final weeks of his life.

Take a hint from me and my friend Charley: Get screened now. Get screened often. Get a life not cut short by this terrible disease. Get ahead of the curve. Get going!

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