Prostate cancer is a significant killer of adult males; much like breast cancer is for adult females. There have been many advances over the past few years in the detection and treatment of both cancers. Research has shown that the two cancers are, in many ways, similar as both typically react to hormones present in the body. Much like estrogen can fuel the growth of breast cancer, testosterone fuels the growth of prostate cancer in the male population.
Over the past few years, the Prostate Specific Antigen or PSA test has received much attention, from calling it the easy fool proof way to detect prostate cancer, to calling it a test that unnecessarily scares many men into needless treatment. Neither of these descriptions is accurate. The PSA test is, quite simply, a blood test that measures the level of a specific antigen in the patient's blood. The specific level in any specific patient may have various causes. Therefore, it is merely a single bit of data in a more complex equation.
Over these same years of research, one more thing seems to have been discovered. Women are much more likely to talk about breasts and reproductive organs, and to have them checked by a physician than men are. Men do not want to talk about or seek medical check-ups regarding their prostate. The male ego, or whatever, deters a significant number of men from getting a proper internal digital exam from a qualified physician. Most, women have an OB/GYN to check their reproductive organs, in addition to their family or primary doctor. Very few men seek prostate evaluations and care from a urologist until it may be too late.
The PSA test will give the physician, and the patient, the raw data as to what the level of antigen is in the patient's blood. Other factors are just as important. What is the patient's family history? What is the patient's condition regarding urination? What is the status of the patient's prostate, evaluated over time, by a qualified doctor?
Linnan & Fallon has represented clients with a normal PSA and with no urinary problems, but with a strong family history and a small change in their prostate exam, who were diagnosed with Stage 3 prostate cancer. Using the PSA as the only check can be a deadly error.
So men, lose your inhibitions about an internal digital rectal exam. Drop your pants and get your exam. It takes less than a minute, is painless and may just save your life.
If you are being followed by a family doctor, and get your annual checkup without a complete prostate evaluation, and are diagnosed with advanced stage prostate cancer, you may be the victim of medical negligence.
If you have any questions, contact Linnan & Fallon LLP.