Murray Wadsworth is the author of Prostate Cancer: Sheep or Wolf?
As the sole parent and provider for my two young children, I began screening for prostate cancer in my early forties as part of my wellness program. But because of all the misinformation about this disease, I became complacent, and the early warning signs were missed. Shockingly, at the young age of fifty-seven, a cancerous tumor was found on my prostate gland. In hindsight, had I not become complacent, my outcome would certainly be more favorable.
I am not alone; over 30,000 American men die each year from prostate cancer—about the same as breast cancer deaths. And as with breast cancer, prostate cancer is very treatable when diagnosed early. Yet, unlike for breast cancer, there is no nationally established prostate cancer screening program. Why not?
Our own American Cancer Society continues to seemingly emphasize that this disease develops mainly in older men and that most men with prostate cancer will not die from it. Whether the man is older or younger, does anyone want to die from cancer? And what about the partner, the children, and the grandkids that have lost someone to a disease that could have been very successfully treated had the man done the screening?
Screening begins with the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test, which can be very useful in the early detection of prostate cancer. The test provides a singular numerical value, which is compared to a standard range based on the man’s age. When the value is higher than the respective standard range, men need to know that three-out-of-four ‘elevated’ PSA results are not cancer. Whew! The key is to find the one-in-four that is cancer. Unfortunately, not all prostate cancers trigger a rise in PSA – so even with a low PSA result, cancer may be present and growing.
The second screening step is the physical exam, the digital rectal exam (DRE). The purpose of this is to see if the doctor can feel a tumor. What is most important for men to understand is that the “all clear” only means the doctor did not feel a tumor that might otherwise be present, as was the case for me. And it is also important to know that when the DRE does identify a tumor, it is most often in a more advanced cancer stage; again, as was the case for me.
When a man’s elevated PSA or DRE raises concern, generally, the next step has been a biopsy. Today, with imaging advancements, an MRI of the prostate gland should be done before the biopsy. Although prostate MRI should be as routine as mammograms, they are not.
When a biopsy is warranted, imaging-guided procedures assure more accurate samples are taken. Understandably many men fear prostate biopsies. As I have had two, I can say quell all fears and appreciate that they are a walk in the park compared to childbirth (or so they say).
PSA screening for prostate cancer continues after treatment. Men face even greater angst, and frustration with this simple procedure as we are testing for remaining cancer medically termed biochemical recurrence. Or, to put it more honestly, treatment failure.
To make my post-treatment screening process easier, I arrange for my testing when and where I want, nationwide, via Requestatest© and LabCorp©. This simple to schedule low-cost service emails the result directly to me, typically in less than twenty-four hours. This self-directed screening service can also be used by men for general screening and is so much easier than going to a medical appointment for the necessary medical order and then back to the doctor to receive the results.
Men! Get PSA screening. No one wants to die from cancer. No man should have to face death from prostate cancer.
ABOUT MURRAY WADSWORTH
Before publishing his book Prostate Cancer: Sheep or Wolf? Murray Wadsworth became a patient detective, patient scientist and strong self-advocate. It took him countless medical consultations on two continents to learn how to reach a precise diagnosis, to evaluate the level of risk and to make the right treatment decisions. His riveting story is of one man’s parallel journeys: Balancing his evolving diagnosis and evaluations of treatment options in the US and Europe, while embarking on RV road trips between four treatment regimes. His book offers a revealing and insightful look into how America’s healthcare system leads men into blind alleys, fear traps, and both undertreatment and overtreatment of this disease. Murray can be reached on facebook.com/prostatecancersheeporwolf or www.sheeporwolfcancer.com.