The Importance of Annual PSA Testing

This is a story of a retired doctor whose annual PSA testing lead to early detection of prostate cancer.  The controversy over the use of PSA tests seems to be focused upon what is best for our healthcare system and not what is best for an individual.  This individual, who happens to be a physician, was vigilant about PSA testing and it saved his life.  He is now using that experience to promote the importance of annual prostate screenings and PSA testing. 

Screenings help men get in touch with their health

The Tampa Tribune:  February 17, 2010

Gene Moore was vigilant about getting annual prostate screenings. The retired physician got a prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, test every year for 10 years.  Elevated levels of PSA in blood serum are associated with prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. Last October, Moore’s PSA results showed a spike. Moore got a biopsy and the results showed he had prostate cancer.

“As a physician and an older man, I knew the need to check (my prostate) regularly,” says Moore, 69, a part-time St. Petersburg resident with a history of having an enlarged prostate. “There’s an emotional shock in hearing the word cancer, whatever type of cancer it is.”

Moore chose to have laparoscopic surgery to remove his prostate, and spend the night in the hospital.  “I thought it was safe and reasonable for me,” he says. “The chances of a good outcome surgically are very good (when caught) at an early stage.”  Moore is sharing his story to encourage other men, especially those older than 50, to get an annual PSA test.

The test is among a number of free screenings men can get during the 10th Annual Men’s Health Forum on March 6 at the Marshall Center at the University of South Florida. The event, which is open to the public, includes screenings for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, vision, hearing and HIV/AIDS.

More than 10,000 men have been screened at the event through the years, says B. Lee Green of the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute’s Office of Diversity.

The Men’s Health Forum will be a bilingual event. Spanish-speaking faculty and staff will be on hand, and all information will be available in Spanish.

According to the National Cancer Institute, one in six American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Black men have nearly twice the risk of dying from prostate cancer as all other ethnicities. If a close relative has prostate cancer, a man’s risk of the disease more than doubles.

But early detection can save lives. Almost 100 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive in five years. After 10 years, about 97.9 percent of men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer are still alive; but only 17.6 percent of those diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer survive 10 years.

A lack of knowledge is the reason many avoid prostate screening, risking a cancer diagnosis late in the game.

“It’s lower on their priority list in terms of other things they have on their plate,” Green says. “We often find a lot of men come (to the Men’s Health Forum) because their wives or significant others want them to be part of the event and get checked.”

Moore, who has no family history of cancer, thinks men older than 50 should consult not just their primary care doctor, but also a specialist, such as a urologist.

“The urologist is a specialist in the urinary system; so many times they can find a lump in your prostate when a primary care physician can’t,” he says.

Moore says one of his friends had three rectal exams by his primary care physician as part of an annual physical and a colonoscopy that came up normal. It wasn’t until he went to a urologist that a small lump was found in his prostate.

“This is a great disease to find early because you can take care of it early,” Moore says. “A rectal exam can find the problem in some cases even sooner than a PSA.”

Prostate cancer is “a very slow cancer,” he says. “Even if you do have an elevated (PSA) test, you have the time to make an informed decision about what to do that’s best for you.”


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