To those with a choice to make, please, before you click off this column let me bend your ear for the sake of your own health. Get your prostate checked…before it’s too late.
It would have been appropriate for me to have written this last September, during national prostate cancer awareness month.
But, as I learned Friday from Dr. Christoper McClung at the Ohio State University urological clinic, where prostate cancer is concerned…where detection is concerned…it’s always, always, better to be too early than fashionably late.
In this, the midde of spring sports seasons, I’m going to digress from our usual coverage today to share a personal story and an interview that Dr. McClung was kind enough to sit for on Friday, one on a different topic.
I want to share with so many guys, many much younger than I am, why it’s important to begin screening for prostate cancer NOW, when you’re 40 years of age…and especially if you have a family history of the disease.
My grandfather, N.D. Fulks, died of prostate cancer 36 years ago.
My father died last spring of ALS, at 82 years of age, but he also had prostate cancer.
Dad had eight brothers, six of which had, or have, prostate cancer. One, so far, has died from it.
So then, the chances are pretty good, wouldn’t you say, that my number is due to come up, based on what we know about this disease and heredity. At least, that’s always been my dread, having seen and heard so much about the family history. “You know, it’s just a matter of time until you get it,” I’ve been told for years. “All the Fulks men die with prostate cancer.”
And for that reason, I began getting screened well before my 50th birthday, the point in life where they actually advise men to become aware and active in their due diligence. And luckily, at age 60 now, I haven’t a sign of the disease. But along the way I’ve found out a lot about what to do when the day finally comes…and it will come…about my options for living with it.
And here’s the facts. Nearly EVERY man living will eventually contract prostate cancer. It is inevitable. If you live long enough you’re going to get it. Physiologically, it’s nearly impossible not to have the disease if you’re a man.
But as McClung told me Friday, it’s finding out as early as possible that’s important…detection and your options for treatment and survival…that make it possible to live with prostate cancer. And the options are a world apart from what my grandfather new about back in 1976.
I originally went to see Dr. McClung last winter because I wanted to know more about urological health than was convenient to find locally. It only made sense. There are more urological practitioners at Ohio State, in the largest research and teaching hospital in the state, and a cancer center of international renown, The James Center.
And here’s what Christopher McClung told me:
* That early detection means a higher survival rate. “If we find it in the early stages our success rate is very, very high,” he said. “We’re light years ahead of what your other family members knew in terms of detection and treatment of this disease.”
* That the standard PSA (prostate-specific-antigen), while not perfect, is still the only standard baseline comparative to go on relative to detection of prostate cancer. “I’m sure that as an industry we’ve actually ‘over-treated’ many cases of prostate cancer over the years, and some needlessly,” said McClung. “But the PSA is still the best and most convenient form of red flag we have for most men.”
* That there are different forms of prostate cancer, that grow at different rates and pose different threats to life and living. “We identify them under the miscroscope after biopsy,” said McClung. Some are more agressive types and they deal with those accordingly. Some are very slow growing and may not threaten you at all, particularly in older men in their late 70s and 80s. Those men don’t die of prostate cancer, even though they may have it. They just die of old age.
And he told me more, much more…good stuff! Information that you should know, but the onus is on you to get off your butt and go hear for yourself. Get yourself checked. There’s no shame in doing it, just heartbreak if you do it too late.
And that’s why I’m writing this column today. I know too many men, personally, in Miami, Shelby, Darke, Mercer, and surrounding counties, who simply put it off…put it out of mind.
One, they’re ashamed to go through with the digital prostate exam, and that’s nonsense.
Two, while they won’t admit it, they’re afraid of what they might find out, foolishly believing that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. The reality is, what you don’t know will surely kill you if you don’t find out in time.
And then there are those who ignore getting screened because they don’t have health care, and don’t want to pay for it out of pocket. Of course, they continue to pay out of pocket for their other, different priorities, but prostate and colorectal screenings can wait.
Let me tell you. Fate has thus far been good to me with this matter. I have some issues, yes, but I also have a good PSA and some peace of mind at this point about what I yet may have to face relative to prostate cancer…something that every one of you reading could and should have for yourself. It’s simple, it’s easy, and there’s no shame involved with sitting down with a professional and learning your facts.
And yes, I could have waited until next September to have written about this. But then I thought of some of the men in my own family and how they would never talk about it. It’s a “man’s” disease, after all…down there. They never wanted anyone to know, what they had or what they were doing about it. They just lived with it.
But for some September would have been too late. And here’s what we all know now about prostate cancer. You can “live” if you know in time.
And it’s never too early to talk about that!