August 2014 and I’m meeting with my primary doctor for a followup on my yearly physical. I’m feeling pretty confident because despite being 68 years old I’ve always maintain my weight, exercised, eat right and take my vitamins. I’ve never smoked, well at least not since I got out of the Navy some 44 years ago and I only occasional drink.
No worries 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 exam that my PSA level (Prostate Specific Antigen, which is a protein produced by the prostate and which elevated levels could indicate prostate cancer.) was slightly elevated. But having read that there are a number of reasons besides cancer for an elevated PSA and that many times the test can be giving a false reading I wasn’t worried.
Now however my PSA had almost doubled! I could feel my heart rate jump and my palms start sweating. The doctor recommended a Urologist and strongly suggested that I make an appointment ASAP! He also said that the Urologist would perform the dreaded prostate biopsy.
So two weeks later I’m in the Urologist’s office. We just finished with an examination of my privates. He had joked earlier about getting to know me real well and if this exam was any indication I think we might get engaged!
We scheduled the biopsy. I had asked about watchful waiting (More on this in another article.) But he said with my rapid increase in PSA level this wasn’t an option. I had talked to a few friends who had under gone a biopsy and had heard all the horror stories about the pain and embarrassment, so I wasn’t looking forward to it.
The prostate biopsy consists of the doctor insert a device up your rectum and then firing twelve needles into your prostate to extract tissue samples. When I say fired that’s exactly want happens! These needles are spring loaded. The doctor counts 1, 2, 3 and bang a needle penetrates through the wall of the rectum and into the prostate. Despite being uncomfortable and embarrassing, it wasn’t painful.
Three days later I got a call saying the biopsy was positive and to come in an discuss my options. They are only two real options. Radiation in which radioactive seeds are implanted and surgery to remove the prostate. Both have they advantages and disadvantages. I’ll go over the benefits of each in my next article.
After discussing all this with my wife we decided to have the prostate removed and scheduled the surgery. In future articles I’ll write more about my journey.