There are many similarities with prostate cancer and breast cancer, including diagnosis and mortality rates. And as with breast cancer, prostate cancer is very treatable when diagnosed early. Yet, unlike for breast cancer, there is no established prostate cancer screening program, and prostate imaging is limited and lags well behind the advancements made in Europe. Why?
Our own American Cancer Society continues to seemingly emphasize that prostate cancer develops mainly in older men, and that the majority of 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 family and friends that have lost someone to a disease that could have been very successfully treated had the man done the screening?
Prostate cancer screening begins with a simple test, the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The test provides a singular numerical value which is compared to a standard range. When the value is higher than the standard range, it is important for the man to know that three-out-of-four ‘elevated’ PSA results are not cancer. Whew! The key is to find the one-in-four that are cancer. Although very rare, 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; specifically, 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; this 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 raise concern, generally the next step has been a biopsy. Today, with advancements in imaging, 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 as well, and 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 the blood test screening process easier, I arrange my own testing for when and where I want nationwide, via Requestatest.com© 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.
About the Author
As the sole parent and provider for two young children, Murray Wadsworth began screening for prostate cancer in his early forties as part of his self-directed wellness program. But because of all the misinformation about this disease, he become complacent, and the early warning signs were missed. Shockingly, at the young age of fifty-seven, a cancerous tumor was found.
Before publishing his book Prostate Cancer: Sheep or Wolf? Navigating Systemic Misinformation, 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.