Stiller Says Prostate Test Saved His Life. Should You Get One?

With the recent news of Ben Stiller's Prostate Cancer and treatment, are there questions raised about Prostate Cancer and the PSA.  No, PSA doesn't stand for public service announcement, but instead prostate-specific antigen.

The first time I heard about PSA was when my mother mentioned dad was going to the doctor's office to get an update in his PA levels.  The next time I heard it was while sitting with my parents at the V.A. Hospital.  The doctor said the PSA numbers did not change from the last test 3 months ago.  Dad was reassured and seemed content. "But you still have cancer," the doctor reiterated. 

After the news was shared, the question was raised as to what was next. What should be done since the number was the same as the last test.  The consensus was to schedule another test for three months later.  But before we left, I asked the doctor, what if the numbers came back higher?  His response was that if the PSA count comes back any higher, something should be done.  At that point, I told my doctor to share with us all of the options that are out there.  Being the forceful son, I told my dad he would need to do all of the research within the next three months so he has a plan of action chosen if and when the PSA number changed for the worse.

The numbers did get worse and surprisingly my father had narrowed down his choices.  He had his prostate removed 7 years ago using the DaVinci laparoscopic surgery and there seem to have been zero side effects.  He was lucky, we were lucky. 

That was our family's solution in regard to prostate cancer and PSA tests and we know Ben Stiller's experience.  But what about you? Are PSA tests / screening the right thing for your health?

A U.S. Task Force actually recommends against universal PSA screening. Here’s everything you need to know about the controversial test

This morning, actor Ben Stiller revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago, at the age of 48. He shared the news on The Howard Stern Show and published a detailed firsthand account of his experience on Medium.

A routine prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test determined he had the cancer, which doctors detected early and were able to treat successfully, he says.

Three months later, his doctors told him he was cancer-free—and he credits the PSA test with saving his life.

With happy-ending stories like that, it’s not hard to understand why the PSA was once recommended annually for men over 50.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men in the United States besides skin cancer. Nearly 99 percent of men diagnosed with it survive at least 5 years, according to National Cancer Institute data. - Menshealth.com

 

It was about 7 years ago that my father went through his ordeal.  Soon after in 2012, an advisory panel reporting to Congress recommended against PSA screening as a tool for preventive care.  But there is a difference between preventative care and tracking levels once you have been diagnosed. 

Menshealth.com continues their piece about the blood test and if you should have it done.  Here are parts of their article.  Head on over to their full piece to learn more.  Even though my father went through prostate cancer, I didn't learn everything there is to know, and there's always more to understand. 

 

What Is Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)?

The cells in your prostate naturally produce a protein called prostate-specific antigen. 

Small amounts of it—usually defined as below 4 nanograms per milliliter of blood (ng/mL) —are considered normal. (In fact, the average levels for healthy guys in their 40s can be below 1 ng/mL.)

But higher levels can indicate that something’s not quite right with your prostate ...

So What’s Wrong With the PSA Test?

For one thing, it’s not a very specific test, says Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. 

Cancer isn’t the only thing that can raise your PSA levels ...

PSA Tests Aren’t Enough—So What’s the Next Step?

As Perkins’s case shows, PSA tests aren’t conclusive. So doctors must monitor changing PSA levels and do further tests on men with higher levels to confirm a prostate cancer diagnosis.

The latter is where the prostate biopsy comes in ...

The Problem With Prostate Biopsies 

Besides being a literal pain in the butt, this procedure also comes with a pretty substantial risk of side effects, Dr. Loeb says ...

But Does PSA Screening Save Lives?

PSA tests—and the subsequent additional tests they require—aren’t perfect. But are they actually saving lives?

Unfortunately, the answer to this isn’t clear ...

What Does This Mean For Prostate Cancer Down the Line?

So Should You Get Your PSA Tested?

There’s no single answer to who should get screened, but experts do have a few recommendations to help you make the best-informed decision for your specific situation.
 
1. In your 40s    2. In your 50s    3. At age 70     

4. If you have symptoms    

5. If you’re diagnosed with prostate cancer

 

As always, consult your doctor and even get a second opinion.  Cancer is nothing to be shy around.  Knowledge is power and life is nothing to toy with.  Find out the correct way for you to monitor your health.

So are you going to get tested?  Track your PSA levels?

 

 

h/t:  menshealth.com