Friday, July 25, 2008

10 seconds that could save your life

This message is for all the guys out there who are afraid to get a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) as part of their annual physical beginning at age 40. I was one of those guys. My family physician asked me in my annual physical at age 40 if I wanted a DRE and I told him that I would have my urologist do it. I knew that it wouldn't happen because I was not comfortable with a doctor doing the procedure. Since my diagnosis, I have heard this recurring theme from men everywhere. Well obviously I have changed my mind because of my situation. Luckily I was having other symptoms that sent me to the urologist and he performed the DRE as part of the diagnostics. I had no choice to say no. The rest is history. I am now an advocate for the DRE because it was 10 seconds that saved my life. That's right, it only lasted 10 seconds and it was a little uncomfortable, but it's the way they discovered my prostate cancer. (You actually need a biopsy to confirm). The PSA blood test was within normal range and if I had only done the PSA I would still have the cancer in my body today instead of being cured. If I didn't have other issues that caused me to go to the urologist, and followed the American Cancer Society guidelines, which recommend a PSA and DRE at age 50 if you have no prior family history of prostate cancer, I would have given the cancer 9 more years to advance. Finding it at this early age gave me plenty of options rather than waiting. There is some controversy around radical treatment options for prostate cancer, some people say you should wait (watchful waiting) because this type of cancer is slow growing and it could take many years for it to grow. I personally chose the radical prostatectomy (removal) because I could not take the mental anguish of knowing I have cancer in my body. I felt like I didn't want to give the cancer an opportunity to grow and possibly spread outside the prostate. Nobody could guarantee that it wouldn't if I waited. I am also young enough to recover from surgery quicker and have a higher chance of a quicker recovery from the side effects of the surgery. In fact I am seeing a big improvement in my side effects already and it's not quite been 4 weeks since the surgery. I do want to say that every situation is different and you should consult your physician for all your options. In closing I am hoping that all men who read this will understand the importance of getting a physical each year especially starting at age 40 and make sure you include a DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) as part of your physical, it's 10 seconds that could save your life.

Here are the screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society:

The American Cancer Society believes that doctors should offer the PSA blood test and DRE (digital rectal exam) yearly, beginning at age 50 to men who do not have any major medical problems and can be expected to live at least 10 more years. Men at high risk should begin testing at age 45. Men at high risk include African American men and men who have a close relative (father, brother, or son) who had prostate cancer before age 65.
Men at even higher risk (because they have several close relatives with prostate cancer at an early age) could begin testing at age 40. Depending on the results of the first tests, they might not need more testing until age 45.


Anonymous said...

I am married to a 41 year old who is like most men afraid of the word Digital Rectal Exam. I am hoping that through your story he is go have one.. he has NEVER had one and it is frightening to me.. HELP!!!

Darren Ritch said...

Have him call me and I will tell him about what I went through.

Malissa Valenzuela said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. My husband was just diagnosed yesterday with pc at 48. Good to see you doing well.

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