August 2014 and I am meeting with my GP for the follow up of my annual check up. I’m pretty confident because even though I’m 68 years old, I’ve always maintained my weight, exercised, eaten right and taken my vitamins. I’ve never smoked, at least not since I retired from the Navy about 44 years ago, and I only drink occasionally.
Don’t worry, I told my wife as I walked out the door. But thirty minutes later, my world turned upside down. I knew from last year’s check-up that my PSA (prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate and elevated levels of which could indicate prostate cancer) was slightly elevated. But after reading that there are a number of reasons for an elevated PSA level besides cancer and that the test can often give false readings, I wasn’t concerned.
But now my PSA had almost doubled! I could feel my heart rate increase and my palms start to sweat. The doctor recommended me a urologist and strongly advised me to make an appointment as soon as possible! He also said the urologist would perform the dreaded prostate biopsy.
So two weeks later I’m in the practice of the urologist. We just finished examining my privates. He joked earlier that he was getting to know me really well and if this exam was any indication, I think we could get engaged!
We scheduled the biopsy. I had asked for watchful waiting (more on that in another article). But he said that with my rapidly rising PSA, that’s not an option. I had spoken to some friends who had had biopsies and had heard all the horror stories about the pain and embarrassment, so I wasn’t looking forward to it.
Prostate biopsy consists of the doctor inserting a device into your rectum and then shooting 12 needles into your prostate to collect tissue samples. When I say fired, that’s exactly what happens! These needles are spring loaded. The doctor counts 1, 2, 3, and then a needle goes through the wall of the rectum and into the prostate. Although uncomfortable and embarrassing, it wasn’t painful.
Three days later I got a call that the biopsy was positive and that I should come in to discuss my options. They’re just two real options. Radiation, which involves implanting radioactive seeds, and surgery to remove the prostate. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I will explain the benefits of each in my next article.
After discussing all of this with my wife, we decided to have the prostate removed and schedule the surgery. In future articles I will write more about my journey.
Thanks to Pete A Turner