A Senior’s Experience: PSA Tests and Their Validity

Mar 22nd, 2010 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

There is a recent study abroad suggesting that the PSA test is overused, over done, and over trusted.  An article in the New York Times of March 10 indicates that men too frequently undergo PSA tests and the findings are taken to indicate the need for radical action.  The article suggests that this is an alarmist state of mind and that many men are misguided into having prostate surgery or receiving other forms of treatment in situations in which cancer “may” be present. 

Two oncologists and my primary physician independently confirmed that my PSA had indicated a rapid growth cancer in my prostate with a Gleason Scale of 9.  My PSA count was over 5 points.  An oncologist specialist upon reviewing all the information,  determined my situation merited removal. 

There were, at the time, enough symptoms to indicate that I had many of the classic issues with my prostate. Because the data indicated the seriousness of my own situation, surgery was scheduled within a month of discovery.  Naievely, I was not fully aware  what to expect.  Most of my life has been free of major issues health wise.  I expected to be in and out and up and about in short order.  It was much more trying than that. 

Today, my oncologist tells me that had I not had surgery, I would have suffered miserably and died at an early death in my 70′s. I am now 71 and have been cancer free for two years.  Brief consideration was given to more traditional forms of treatment, but all were shelved in the interest of preserving my life.  The side effects have been another matter, but when I visit with other of my peers who have been through it all, I consider myself fortunate. 

There is no crystal ball for knowing which course to pursue.  A colleague of mine noted that he had visited with a number of men who had been faced with choices for treating or removing the prostate.  His conclusion was that in every case, each person had concluded that his choice was the best one to take.

In spite of the alarmist warnings and statistical data, each person, when diagnosed with cancer, must decide his (in this case) response for treatment.  It is true that prostate cancer is slow growing.  It is true that one may be diagnosed with prostate cancer and die of something else altogether.  It is also true that prostate cancer may be just the ticket for your own face to face encounter with cancer.  You are the only one who can decide how you will cope with it and treat it or not.

In many cases, persons choose the least invasive approach.  While there is risk in that, it may be that nothing eventuates at all.  Treatment for other discomforts, such as urinating frequently, may provide sufficient comfort that you are willing to live with one without dealing with the other.

Sexual prowess is also often affected by prostate issues.  They are not necessarily to be corrected with treatment or surgery.  In fact, one needs to be prepared for a major change in sexual habits and abilities. Remember, I am no physician, just a former cancer patient who went through surgery for prostate removal.  The physician did his best to have me return to “normal.”  However, today I still wear male pads for urine leakage, I am not capable of erections.  I do not have a sex life that includes intercourse.  One may ascertain that that isn’t much of  a trade off.  It does provide for some depression, but at least, as my wife reminds me, I am still alive.

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