My grandfather had prostate cancer at age 83.
My father had prostate cancer at age 71.
My uncle had prostate cancer at age 65.
I’m a urologist. I’ve counseled hundreds of men with prostate cancer. I know what to look for, what the treatment options are. the results, the complications, and the side effects. I did seven years of residency after four years of medical school. I understand prostate cancer. But it wouldn’t happen to me… would it?
I knew, with my family history, I should keep a close eye on my PSA. My first PSA at 40 was 1.04. That’s a great value – I thought. (Recent studies show that if a man’s PSA at age 40 is greater than 0.8, he has a significant chance of life threatening prostate cancer.)
Then my PSA began to creep up, but I was healthy. I was eating right, exercising, and even completed an Ironman triathlon. I wouldn’t be the one to get cancer… would I?
At age 53 my PSA was 3.11. That started to get my attention. I have a lab in my office, so I got my PSA test more frequently. At age 54 it hit 3.91, which is still “normal”. I had extra testing, including a PC3 test, which suggested only an 8% chance of cancer … PHEW!
However, the next year I had an insurance physical with lab work. The PSA came back 5.39. Time for a biopsy, but remember: only about 31% of men who have a biopsy will end up having cancer. The odds were in my favor…weren’t they?
The urologist who did my biopsy didn’t even use the “C” word. He just told me I had Gleason 7 in 3 cores. He knew I would know what he was telling me… I had cancer.
In 2017, I had a robot assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. I have had a great result. I credit this result to prompt detection, the skill of an excellent surgeon, and the grace of God. My PSA is now undetectable, but I’ll be monitoring it VERY closely.
It happened to me – it could happen to you. Men need to monitor their PSA. If you don’t know your PSA value, you may not know a problem is developing.
If you are a man, get your PSA checked. If you have an important man in your life (father, husband, brother, son) encourage them to get a PSA test. At age 40 you should get your first one. Then continue yearly if you are African-American or have a family history of prostate cancer. All men should get it yearly starting at age 50. Continue to get it yearly as long as you are healthy enough to consider treatment.
Some people would say to stop at age 75. I know 80 year olds who run marathons and ride 100-mile bike rides. Healthy men, regardless of age, should continue to get a PSA test.
A blood test is a cheap investment in monitoring your health.