Prostate cancer is treatable—27,000 men don’t have to die each year in America. While prostate cancer in its early stages may not have any symptoms, you should honestly ask yourself if you are experiencing any of the following:
• Difficulty starting to urinate
• Less force to the stream of urine
• Dribbling after you finish urinating
• Frequent urination, especially at night
• Blood or pus in the urine
• Blood in the semen
• Pain while urinating
• Pain with ejaculation
• Hip and lower back pain that does not go away over time
• Pain in the lower part of your pelvis
• Unintended weight loss and/or loss of appetite
Bob King about 61 years old became concerned when he was making four nightly trips to the bathroom. His dosage of Flomax was not working so went for a biopsy. One positive finding and a suspicious second spot raised concern for prostate cancer.
The Scottsdale resident did not rush to surgery but discussed his options with several urologists and friends who had had surgery. Ultimately Bob had the surgery with this thought, “if your body tells you that there is a problem, then you have to deal with it.”
Gary Cruz also of Scottsdale, at age 57 found that he has several positive biopsies. “My options were to do nothing, radiation, hormone therapy, radioactive seeds, conventional surgery or robotic surgery. I hated knowing that cancer was in my body and after some emotional conversations with my wife and son and my urologist. I decided to undergo the robotic surgery to remove my cancerous prostate,” said Cruz.
“Was I in a life and death situation? The simple answer was no, but as I stated, I couldn't mentally deal with the fact I had cancer growing in my body, regardless of how slow it may have been and there is no evidence that it was or was not growing rapidly.”
Cruz said early detection saved his life. “Almost 27,000 men die from prostate cancer every year. It drives me crazy that most of those deaths could have been prevented with early detection. I'm a firm believer that men should start getting tested at age 40 on an annual basis,” he added.
What should you do about prostate cancer screening? If you are over fifty and you get an annual physical, add the PSA test to your blood work if it is not already included. They use the same blood sample for the cholesterol test.
The test that most men do not like is the digital rectal examination [DRE]. It probably saved Scottsdale resident David Tucker’s life.
“My case was simple. DRE revealed a lump, PSA went from 2.8 (for 3 years straight) to 3.6, biopsy had 3 hits in 10, and I was just 62.” He elected surgery and has been cancer-free for four years.
Rabbi Ed Weinsberg, writes a blog on prostate cancer and notes “Prostate Cancer screening has NOT been overtly encouraged by the American Cancer Society [ACS] for the past 15 years. Now the American Cancer Society has gone even further by asking patients and doctors to consider the danger of routine prostate cancer PSA screening, since the ACS implicitly claims such testing can easily lead to over-treatment.”
His conclusion is the same as mine.
“Even though at least 80% of prostate cancers are found early, scientists have yet to figure out which are likely to become aggressive. Is the ACS asking men to avoid treatment and simply assume they won’t be among the 27,000 prostate cancer patients who die every year in the US alone? It’s true that the odds of survival are in our favor. But prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of male cancer death after lung cancer.”
“Whatever its limitations, until a more precise biomarker is discovered, routine PSA screening is a must for most men, followed by a biopsy when indicated to determine if a man has prostate cancer. We men have a right and an obligation to ourselves to know what’s happening inside our bodies,” Weinsberg said.
So get regularly testing and keep good records. Doing nothing may make you a statistic.
William E. Arnold, Ph.D., writes a weekly column on Strategic Aging for the Arizona Republic, Scottsdale edition, where the article above first appeared. For more information, see his prostate cancer support blog.