Guys: Don’t Put it Off Like I Did. Get Checked!

Dr. Drew Shares His Prostate Cancer Story

While each patient’s battle with prostate cancer is an individual one, my experience is hardly unique. My story began 4 years ago, back in 2011, when my wife Susan literally begged me to see a doctor for a physical exam. At the time, I was dismissive—even incredulous at this suggestion—even though 2 of my close relatives, my father and uncle, had both been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I’m a doctor! I thought, what’s the point in visiting another internist for a physical exam?

But Susan was insistent, and so, against my instinct, I went. I was surprised when my routine blood work revealed something unexpected: my PSA had risen from 1 to 4. My doctor advised me not to worry; an ultrasound revealed prostatitis, so he prescribed some antibiotics. I felt I was in the clear.

However, when my PSA levels remained elevated despite treatment, my doctor was prompted to look further. A subsequent biopsy revealed a new diagnosis: prostate cancer. Following the initial diagnosis, I was on a program of active surveillance, also known as “watchful waiting,” for 2 years while my doctor monitored the status of the tumor. Ultimately, upon observing some suspicious changes in the tumor, my doctor was no longer comfortable with active surveillance, and strongly urged surgery.

I’m a doctor! What’s the point in visiting another internist for a physical exam?

My doctor’s discomfort with the situation was good enough for me, and, trusting his judgment, I underwent surgery in July 2013. While many of you were celebrating the 4th of July, I was at home on my couch recovering from a radical robotic prostatectomy. Four hours of surgery had left me in great pain, without an appetite and in need of help from my college-age son, Jordan, to get up and lie down. But I was cancer-free for the first time in at least 2 years. I have since made a full recovery and returned to all of my normal activities with no lasting adverse effects. The only remnant of cancer surgery is 6 small scars on my torso, and they are fading fast.

In September, to celebrate the launch of the MANhoodforgood campaign and raise awareness for prostate cancer, I filmed a PSA with Susan urging men to “get checked.” Throughout this experience, I have been grateful for the support of my wife, and I now have the opportunity to support other men with this exceedingly common disorder from the perspective of a patient. I have had the great privilege of supporting other men through their journey with prostate cancer and I have had the opportunity to become active with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. I am increasingly convinced that the research we are funding has and will continue to provide breakthroughs that will transform the prognosis not only for prostate cancer, but for many other malignancies as well.

 

Terms to know from this article:

Biopsy

The removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When an entire lump or suspicious area is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.

Active Surveillance

Active surveillance is an option offered to patients with very low-risk prostate cancer (low grade, low stage, localized disease). Patients are monitored carefully over time for signs of disease progression. A PSA blood test and digital rectal exam (DRE) and prostate biopsy are performed at physician-specified intervals. Signs of disease progression will trigger immediate active treatment.

Prostatectomy

An operation to remove part or all of the prostate. Radical (or total) prostatectomy is the removal of the entire prostate and some of the tissue around it.

Prognosis

The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

PSA

prostate-specific antigen (PSA): A substance produced by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, or infection or inflammation of the prostate.

Tumor

A mass of excess tissue that results from abnormal cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

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