Our first blog comes from Lance Simon, Senior Director of Business Development at Blue Sky eLearn. Lance is bravely sharing his experience with a cancer scare and hopes to help men his age, and their families and loved ones, learn more about early detection.
This blog is for my 40+-year-old, male-born (prostate-carrying) friends, as well as our colleagues and those who love us. Over the past several months, I was tested for, and received a diagnosis of, prostate cancer. My father died of this cancer, but the secret to my positive outcome was early detection. Here’s a brief story of my journey so far, as well as some suggested Dos and Don'ts.
Please Note: I’m not a doctor, and I’m not authorized to share anything more than my opinion and my experiences with this disease. Always consult your physician for personalized medical advice.
Like many of us, I got out of the habit of an annual, in-person checkup. Then I realized that it had been over two years since my last exam (no reminders came from the doctor’s office, and I’m lucky I remembered). When I went to my appointment, they drew blood for routine analysis, including a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) Level test.
The results from my blood draw were normal except for my PSA level, which was a bit higher than normal (5.5). Nothing alarming, but knowing my family history of cancer, my doctor referred me to a urologist for a prostate evaluation.
Looking back, I almost ignored this advice. PSA 5.5 is just slightly above normal. I’m super busy, and perhaps subconsciously, it was nice to imagine this was something that could wait until my next annual physical to see if it stayed high or went back down to normal. But this was simply an excuse built on the hope that there wasn’t really a problem.
So, what did the urologist say? He immediately recommended a biopsy as the “gold standard” first step in this process. After researching and considering other options, I identified a different possibility: a non-invasive prostate MRI. I went back to the urologist to make the suggestion, and it was immediately approved.
My prostate MRI came back with a finding of “prostate cancer.” But, not all prostate cancers are created equal—far from it. My prostate MRI report had a lot of details, both promising and scary.
After reviewing the report with my doctor, a prostate biopsy would indeed be my next step. Fortunately, because I had the MRI first, I could get an MRI/Fusion biopsy, which is more accurate and less invasive!
The prostate biopsy report is important. It’s complex and requires analysis by medical professionals. In my case, my urologist’s evaluation showed the need for radiation treatments. The radiation would kill the cancer cells, but the side effects could be significant and last for months. One option required me to go to the urologist’s office over 20 times for treatment, every weekday for a month. Another option would have made my midsection radioactive enough that I couldn’t be around young children for months.
I made an early commitment to get a second opinion before taking any next steps. But I hesitated and almost blew it at this critical moment. I had slipped into the mode of believing that “…Really smart people have looked at all the data and told me what I need to do. So, let’s just get ready and do it.” When I was giving my kids an update on my options, one of them asked pointedly, “So, are you getting a second opinion or not?” That made me realize that I owed myself that extra step.
It was a hassle collecting all of the test data for the second opinion, but it was worth it. The urologist providing the second opinion did an independent analysis of my biopsy results and came to a significantly different conclusion: my current trajectory should be “Active Surveillance,” not radiation. There was nothing further to do for at least six months. Chances of my cancer spreading in the next ten years? Around 3%. YAY!
My situation is fortunate, and EARLY DETECTION and SECOND OPINIONS made my process much more successful.
So, to sum it all up:
About the Author
Lance Simon, CVEP, is the Senior Director of Business Development at Blue Sky eLearn. Based in the Washington D.C. area, Lance has nearly 40 years of experience in the technology industry and has focused on associations since 2003.
Lance is an expert in all things eLearning and is passionate about helping clients start their journey with learning management systems and virtual events. Make sure to connect with Lance on LinkedIn!
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