My dad's story isn't unusual, but it's a little scary: his prostate cancer was discovered when he switched doctors. He was seeing the same primary care physician (PCP) for several years, but he didn't love the care he was receiving. Something about the physician seemed off-putting; it could have been the countless patients he accepted and his inability to recapture my dad's case when he came in for appointments. The docotor also seemed a little lax about important exams, especially for older people. When my dad changed primaries, he learned an invaluable lesson: be proactive about your own medical care.
When dad changed to his new PCP, this doctor ran a panel of bloodwork that checked many things, including his prostate specific antigen (PSA) level--- a standard test to determine prostate issues such as cancer. This particular result came back high: 6.9. The PCP explained that he checked prostate bloodwork up until the age of 85, since seniors could likely have issues.
My dad contacted his old physician and questioned what age he stopped checking for PSA levels. The doctor told him that he himself stopped the test after the age of 70. Alarming! My dad then told him about his newly discovered ordeal and mentioned that this physician, too, should continue to check men for prostate cancer for as long as possible.
Once my dad received this blood test and learned about his elevated PSA level, his new physician directed him to a urologist. The urologist specializes in urinary tract anatomy, physiology, and pathology (kidneys, ureters, bladders, urethras, prostates) and he was equipped to deal with the first step in my father's care: performing a biopsy to determine if the issue was cancer.
During this time Dad also continued to stay in close contact with his primary care physician, whom he then considered a lifesaver. I don't believe my father even knew to have such a blood test (as many men do not), since he was exhibiting absolutely NO symptoms of prostate cancer.
I suppose a great deal of patients who actually know about the PSA test either exhibit symptoms and are tested or they know others who went through the ordeal. But what if you're symptom-free and above the age of 70? Knowing to ASK for this test from your primary doctor, if it is not offered to you, is the first step in the prevention and/or treatment of prostate cancer.
Published On: May 18, 2010