My Advice Is: Don’t Wait!

merrill-douglas-1As a physician in my early 60s, I was more than aware of the risk of prostate cancer, and had been monitoring my PSA levels off and on for a few years. I had a biopsy a few years ago which was normal, but the levels kept rising, slowly. Nonetheless, I felt great and the medicine I took to shrink the prostate seemed to keep me doing well.

Two years ago, I moved to California, and UCLA’s Dr. Saigal was recommended to me. I finally called him about a year after I got here and he agreed that it would be important for me to follow my levels more regularly. I still put it off for a few months even after that.  When I finally was tested, it had gone up again, from around 6 to now 9.9.

He asked me to come in and have an MRI scan of the prostate, a special imaging test (no pain!) that UCLA has pioneered. He and I both thought that this would be all we would need to do: annual PSA tests and an annual MRI. In fact, the MRI looked great, so I had no concerns about making my first real appointment with him any time soon. I finally did, a couple of months later. Dr. Saigal examined me and recommended another specialized test that looks for a specific chemical in the urine. This one came back quite high, and that meant my risk for cancer was very high. So, we decided to do a biopsy. Biopsies aren’t fun, but I walked out of the clinic to a Starbucks without any trouble, so you can understand they aren’t that difficult.

Sure enough, several of the biopsy specimens came back positive and Dr. Saigal called me a couple of days later and asked me to come in so we could review my risks and options. The options are several, but at my age (“relatively young” he said!), the decision for surgery was pretty straightforward. Dr. Saigal got me into the hospital within a couple of weeks and the surgery went smoothly. My pathology report shows that he got all the cancer out and I should not have to worry ever again about prostate cancer. There is no substitute for that relief!

I am still recovering, but am feeling well and active, walking five miles a day less than two weeks after surgery. I have also been able to quit taking the two medicines I took for over a year in hopes of reducing the size of my prostate, before surgery.

Again, I am a physician, but I took longer to follow up on the very simple tests than I should have, but in the end I am a good example of why those tests are important to get on a regular basis. My advice is: don’t wait! Get the tests regularly and see your physician for an exam at least once every year.

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