Get­ting tested can save your life

Early de­tec­tion key to sur­viv­ing prostate cancer


Dear ed­i­tor,

My hus­band was di­ag­nosed with prostate cancer at the young age of 52, and the only rea­son he re­ceived this di­ag­no­sis was that he was very proac­tive in tak­ing care of his health. His own fa­ther died of prostate cancer at the age of 80 but it was only dis­cov­ered at the very late stage, as the older gen­tle­man dis­missed early warn­ing signs and just did not take an ac­tive role in look­ing after him­self. It was a slow and mis­er­able death that cer­tainly took its toll on my hus­band’s fa­ther and all his fam­ily mem­bers.

A fam­ily doc­tor rec­om­mended to my hus­band that he should get his PSA ( prostate-spe­cific-anti­gen) checked ev­ery year as soon as he turned 40, as there was now a fam­ily his­tory of this disease. My hus­band did just that, and the PSA blood test was just an­other test in his an­nual check-up.

I was very proud of my hus­band for tak­ing such a proac­tive ap­proach, as it showed he was re­spon­si­ble to him­self and to his fam­ily to keep him­self healthy. In­ci­den­tally, just a few months prior to our wed­ding in 2003, my hus­band’s PSA count dou­bled in a short pe­riod of time and this made a trip to an urol­o­gist nec­es­sary to get a dig­i­tal rec­tal ex­am­i­na­tion (DRE). This con­firmed the pres­ence of a lump and a few weeks later he was get­ting a biopsy. The re­sult of the first biopsy was in­con­clu­sive and an ap­point­ment for an­other biopsy was made for three months down the road.

We went on with our wed­ding, but this was on our minds. The se­cond biopsy con­firmed the pres­ence of cancer and just three months after our wed­ding, we pre­pared as a team for my hus­band’s surgery. We were lucky that we did not have to wait long after the di­ag­no­sis to have his surgery. And we knew we were cor­rect in be­ing proac­tive with my hus­band’s health and his check-ups as the pathol­o­gist’s re­port stated this was an ag­gres­sive type of cancer.

Many of our friends and fam­ily were sur­prised to find out about the cancer as my hus­band looked very healthy and he was not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any symp­toms.

In our ex­pe­ri­ences with deal­ing with prostate cancer sur­vivors in the sup­port groups, many men said they did not feel sick and they felt the way they al­ways did. It was through the PSA’s and even­tual DRE’s that the prostate cancer was dis­cov­ered.

It is very un­for­tu­nate that some prom­i­nent physi­cians do not be­lieve in screen­ing for prostate cancer, as I know from our per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, the ‘ headin-the-sand” ap­proach is not ef­fec­tive. If we had fol­lowed this ad­vice, it is very pos­si­ble that this let­ter could now be writ­ten from a widow in­stead of a very happy and grate­ful wife who is cel­e­brat­ing eight years of wed­ded bliss and, in Oc­to­ber, eight years of cancer-free life for her hus­band.

The mes­sage that is be­ing de­liv­ered very loudly and clearly by most in the med­i­cal field is that early de­tec­tion is the key to sur­viv­ing this dreaded disease.

Go­ing through prostate cancer is not ‘a walk in the park’ as it does of­ten make the pa­tient un­com­fort­able with pain af­ter­wards, wear­ing a catheter, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­con­ti­nence, and maybe hav­ing some sex­ual side ef­fects as well. Some of these prob­lems last for a short time and some may re­quire some med­i­cal fol­low up. There may also be some fol­low up chemo­ther­apy and/ or radiation treat­ment.

I am very proud to say my hus­band is back 100 per cent, and I am very con­fi­dent in say­ing it is through be­ing in charge of your own health and hav­ing the good sense to look after all av­enues of your health that this was made pos­si­ble.

After our ex­pe­ri­ences, my hus­band and I al­ways tell our male friends to get tested, and that is the first step in early de­tec­tion.

To any­one whose fam­ily doc­tor down­plays the im­por­tance of prostate cancer test­ing, I strongly urge them to fol­low my hus­band’s ex­am­ple and in­sist on get­ting a PSA blood test done. It can save your life, and I am so happy that it saved my hus­band’s. Patti Collins Yet­man


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